Life is filled with choices — some of them minor, some major — and some that just seem to put everyone in a quandary.
I was in a nice shopping center not long ago, and decided to stop in the food court area for a bite to eat. It is not only nice to enjoy a day out once in awhile for a little shopping, but people-watching can be so interesting, too.
A lovely young mother pushed a newborn in a stroller, with a little boy walking at her side. She stood in line ahead of me, looking over the food and drink selections for lunch. It ran through my mind that the menu seemed a bit overwhelming, even to me. I realized that she was reading off that menu, urging her young son to make up his mind what he wanted. He began whining, kicking his foot back and forth, not giving his mother an answer.
She politely urged me to go ahead of her. I smiled and thanked her. I placed my order, paid, waited for the food to be prepared, carried my tray away and took a seat in the open mall area. After all that time, she was still reading the menu to her toddler, urging him to make up his mind. By this time, the newborn in the stroller was crying.
I found myself feeling so sorry for that little guy. He had no idea what he wanted. He was being presented with too many choices, surrounded by loud strangers, a crying sibling that had suddenly appeared in his world, and a frustrated, tired mom.
We live in a world rich with choices. We all have been overwhelmed by something as simple as standing in front of a variety-filled toothpaste selection. Which one? Why is this one twice the price? Do I need this new additive?
We all wish for simplicity at times. Life sure used to be a whole lot simpler for everyone, including kids. We had less, but expected little. We would rarely get a surprise of any kind, and treats were limited to the dessert at the end of a homecooked meal. There were no such thing as kids’ meals, no collections of movie-inspired plastic toys to clamor over.
We were never bribed with anything if we cleaned up our plates. It was expected. If a kid sat down at the table and found the food to be less than favorite fare in my house, not a word was said. Pickled beets or three-bean salad? Just don’t put too much on your plate if it isn’t choice fare for you. Fill up on bread and butter if necessary. We knew no one wanted to hear our humble opinion, and it went without saying that any complaints were to be kept completely to oneself.
One dish I remember staring at for the longest time when it appeared on our table was something that seemed other-worldly, possibly inedible and maybe even potentially poison. It was chop suey. Dad, the consummate all-American meat-and-potatoes kind of guy, stared at that dish for a long time, too. He politely took a small spoonful, sprinkled a few of the crunchy noodles on top as he’d been instructed to do, and took a bite. He made a never-before-seen face of epic horror movie proportion. He quietly got up, reached for a bowl, and fixed himself a dish of bread and milk with sugar sprinkled over top. That was his quiet way of reaching a peaceful solution, with not a word of discord ever said.
Times have changed
As kids, we didn’t choose the clothing that filled our closet, our shoes, our toys, our bedtime or our free-time social engagements.
It goes without saying that the world in which I grew up was run by the adults. There were no lists of choices presented to us, and decisions that needed to be made were all reached by the adults. Being a kid meant that we were to quietly go along and get along. The only thing we could be sure of is that someday we would get to be the adult and then we would be calling all the shots. It was something we aspired to.
Maybe I’m crazy, but it sure seemed to work a whole lot better for everyone.