Tea and Crumpets and Thugs, Oh My!

Posts 04


Traveling with four children is a challenge.  I feel fairly sure that you will all agree with me.  I face different challenges now than I did when they were babies, but it can be a struggle just the same.  I have two words for you: table manners.  Don’t laugh. This was a minor problem that drove me seriously crazy on our first week of vacation.  I know that in the grand scheme of life, this doesn’t register as a big deal.  I also know that my children found a new way to torment me.


My family is fortunate to be able to take a European tour.  This is my first time crossing the pond. We have been planning this trip for years.  London was our first destination.  We stayed at a lovely hotel.  Or, you could go by my daughter’s opinion, “Whoa, FANCY!”  She was not wrong.  Our hotel was a hushed voices and white tablecloth kind of a place.  We ate breakfast there every morning.  Fresh squeezed orange juice, gourmet cheeses and meats, fluffy pancakes, and my kids.  My loud, argumentative, elbows on the table, talking with food in their mouths kids.  Yikes!


It isn’t as if I haven’t taught my children how to behave well during meals.  This is something we practice with regularity at home.  They know how to set a table, ask politely for another piece of bread, and make appropriate conversation.  This is not new material.  So why in the world have they suddenly lost the ability to be companionable over a shared meal?  At first, I chalked it up to plain old exhaustion and grumpiness.  We have all been there.  Tired and short tempered.


My daughter decided to up the ante.  In response to a comment from her older sister, my 11-year-old replied, “True dat!”  WHAT?  I will pause here to admit that some of this slang grates my nerves.  Personal pet peeve.  I told her that she needed to speak proper English, especially here in this beautiful English breakfast room.  She quieted for a moment and then called out, “Thug life!” and started laughing.  My eyes just about popped out of my head and rolled across the thickly carpeted floor.


I have NEVER heard any of my kids use this phrase and this is when she decides to trot it out?  I think the cute little old lady two tables over may have choked on her tea.  And I didn’t blame her one bit!  As I sat there and contemplated the need to order something stronger than coffee, my husband came to the rescue and asked her if she knew what “thug life” meant.  She responded with a long pause and then a shrug of the shoulders.  She had no idea.  And this is how it came to be that my family sat in ridiculously posh surroundings and discussed the definition of a thug.  My day had gone sideways and it wasn’t even 9:00 in the morning.  I don’t usually make it from tea and crumpets to thug life in one sitting.


This was a seemingly random conversation that opened my eyes to a nearly universal experience.  She was trying to fit in.  She heard the phrase from a friend and decided to adopt it.  She is not usually one for striving to conform to social norms.  (Refer to above comment in hotel dining room).  She refuses to hold a golf club the right way, hates to take direction of any kind, and always marches to the beat of her own drum.  How strong is the urge to experience social belonging and acceptance? It’s hard to swim against the current as an adult.  How much more so for a child?  Even one as strong as her…


Confidence is a tricky thing.  Not enough of it will leave you quaking in your boots and filled with self-doubt.  It can hurt you.  Think of the small child who is afraid to step on the escalator.  Hesitating to get on the first step can cause him to get hurt.  On the other hand, too much confidence can come across as arrogant or obnoxious.  It can be off-putting and make it difficult to forge strong friendships.


I think many of us are still navigating this issue.  It’s hard to find the sweet spot.  How often do we stop and think about how others will perceive our actions?  I would wager that we do it too much.  We don’t want to be thought of as pushy or rude or as a know-it-all.  We’ve been warned against that since childhood.  Likewise, kids don’t want to be the teacher’s pet or the tattletale or the mean girl.


And yet so many of us are afraid.  Afraid of failing.  Afraid of succeeding.  Because…then what?  People will expect us to do it again.  What if we can’t?  Like I said, confidence is a tricky thing.  We are always moving forward…to the next relationship, the next job, the next adventure.  Life can be a bit like a game of hide-and-seek.  Sometimes you know you have the best hiding spot and sometimes you run out of time and know you are about to get caught.  Ready or not…here I come!


My youngest child sometimes lacks in the confidence area (as do most kids his age).  He questions himself and he sometimes comments that he isn’t as good at certain things as other people are.  But every so often, the confidence comes shining through unexpectedly.  My oldest daughter made him angry at breakfast.  He shot her a dirty look.  She told him that he gives a mean stink-eye.  Without missing a beat he replied, “I am the stink-eye sensei!”  If only I could get him to apply that self-assured attitude to his writing homework…


Life is complicated and we often make it more so.  But some things are simple.  Be confident that you have inherent value. You are loved.  You have purpose.  Reach out in unwavering love to those around you.  I suspect that right now you know someone who feels lost, who needs reminding that she is loved, who feels alone in the world. You have the power to change that.  We all have the power to change that.  Let’s do it together.  Have confidence in God’s love and grace and extend it wholeheartedly to those around us.


“Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.  No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.”

1 John 4: 11-12




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  1. Rochelle Chastain says:

    Love it!

  2. Debbie Lionetti says:

    You sure do have a way with words. Love this one too.

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