One advantage of living where I do is that I’m near to the first bus-stop of the route. Even in the sardiniest stage of the rush-hour, I get my choice of seat.
I was luxuriating in my solitary seat by the window as the nigh-empty bus absorbed more and more bodies stop by stop . Finally my solitude was broken by a mother with three little girls.
“Here, sit down Channa, Shulie sit next to her, that’s it.”
“But what about me?” piped up the youngest.
I squeezed myself into the smallest space possible and offered the extra space.
Efrat’s mum plonked her unceremoniously next to this strange stranger and she howled, cowering into the side of her bigger sister.
“Efrati, sit down, the bus is moving, you might get hurt.
Efrat jumped off the seat blubbering and howling about her lack of sitting space.
“Come Channie, you sit next to the nice lady and make room for Efrat.”
Channie squeezed herself next to her sister and looked at me as if I was a wicked something-or-other determined on her personal destruction. So much for my kindly universal grandmother image.
“Efrat, sit on the step (the raised step that each double seat rested on). You sit nicely on the step and I will give you a sweet.
Not to miss out Channie demanded “I also want a sweet.”
“If Channie gets one, so should I” Shulie put in her bid.
Shulie hopped off the chair, “I want to sit on the step and I want the apple that Efrat is holding.”
“Efratti, give the apple to Shulie. Look Shulie has come off the chair so now you have a seat.” Mum put Efrat next to me as Channie had grabbed Shuli’s place next to the isle. Efrat’s scream dented my self esteem even further. Daddy came to the rescue and pulled his terrified offspring onto the safety of his lap on the seat in front of us.
“Where’s my sweet?” Channie demanded after all the commotion subsided.
“You will have to wait until the next bus stop. I can’t reach my bag while we’re travelling. Shulie, please sit down.”
“I don’t want to sit on the step.”
“You asked to sit there.”
“Oh, I’ve dropped a bit of apple, get it for me.”
“You can’t eat it, it’s dirty and anyway I can’t reach it whilst the bus is moving.”
“i want the apple.”
“i can’t get it.”
“I want it.”
“Where’s my sweet?”
“Shulie do sit down, you’ll get hurt.”
“Why aren’t you giving me a sweet?”
“I told you…ah, the bus is stopping, here my darling,”
“Not that one, give me another one.”
“That is what grandma gave me for you.”
“I don’t like it, what else have you got.”
“Here, I’ve found another one.”
“I don’t like it, I want a different sweet.”
“That’s it. You can have this one or the one I first showed you.”
“Give me the first one.”
Well done mum, you actually made a decision and stuck to it. I wonder why Channie listened to you? Tone of voice? The way you looked at her.
Mum might have answered:
“I don’t know. She gets like that sometimes and sometimes she’ll suddenly do as I tell her and sometimes she won’t. I usually pray inside that this time she will but it doesn’t always work.”
“If you think back again to the sweet incident, what was different about the way you gave her those two options and no other?”
“There were really no other options and anyway she didn’t really deserve to get a treat. I had come to the end of my patients.”
“Do you think she heard that message in your tone of voice?”
“I suppose she did.”
“Can you remember other situations when you have been so decisive with your children?
“Yes, when we were crossing a main road and some of the children didn’t want to hold hands. On a main road, to cross by themselves, Chas v’ shalom what might have happened. They argued a bit and even let go, but in the end, they all held hands
“How did you manage that time?”
“They just had to hold hands.”
“What did the children notice about you that made them do as you asked?”
“I didn’t shout at them. I think I had a ‘look’ and my voice was very firm.”
“Do they always obey you when you have the ‘look’ and your voice is firm?”
Mum had a brainwave and picked up Channie, who was too busy chewing her ill gotten gains to protest and sat next to me putting the errant free-standing Shulie on her other knee. Finally Mum herself was sitting down.
You have managed again. What do you think worked this time?
The next stop was theirs. Bye, bye mum, keep up the good work.