They were just another random family having dinner together at a fast food restaurant. But I couldn’t stop listening to their interaction with each other — and feeling envious.
I don’t know these people. I’ll probably never see them again. They have no idea anybody was paying attention to them. But there were some things about them that made me want to be like them.
There were two little girls and a boy, along with their parents. Everybody got along and seemed completely relaxed with one another. The children were well-behaved for their age, but they weren’t perfect. The parents gently corrected when they got a bit out of line, but they were relaxed about it.
The parents seemed as though they liked each other. They were trying to figure something out about an online order that they were about to pick up, so they were collaborating in the midst of dealing with the kids. Nobody was snapping or being short. They were polite and helpful to each other.
It sounds completely unremarkable, but what I saw was completely different from what I typically see and hear.
They didn’t laugh at each other or make fun of one another. Everybody seemed gentle and loving.
“We came here tomorrow,” the little boy said at one point. He meant to say, “We came here yesterday,” but nobody made fun of him. The dad gently asked him whether it was really “tomorrow” when they came. It took him a couple of minutes, but the boy finally laughed and understood what he had said.
Nobody was stressed out about anything. Nobody was upset. Everybody seemed to feel relaxed and loving and normal.
One of the little girls had ordered a cheeseburger, but she decided she wanted to take the meat and cheese off and just eat the bun with ketchup. The mother explained why this was an expensive thing to do and why she didn’t need to do that in the future if that’s what she wanted to eat, but it was relaxed. Nobody was angry with her. They just explained and then moved on.
Almost all of the families I see are tense and unhappy in some way or other. The parents are frequently ignoring the children — at least until the kids get too loud and then they angrily threaten the kids. With most families I observe, most of them seem bored or tense or angry or disconnected. These people weren’t like any of that.
They weren’t special. The children weren’t performing amazing feats for their ages. They got a little too loud at times. They were completely normal children.
But none of this bothered the parents. They never let things get out of hand. They were constantly interacting gently and lovingly with the children and with each other. They seemed like a perfectly normal and emotionally healthy family — and that made them seem remarkable to me.
I’m sure there are times when they’re not a happy and healthy family. They surely have flare-ups. But those are normal. What I saw tonight was too relaxed and natural to have been an act. This seemed to be what they are.
I don’t want something that’s wildly unattainable. I don’t want the perfect wife or the perfect children. I just want a family where everybody is loving and kind to one another. A family where people like each other and treat each other with respect.
What I saw was unremarkable — but I couldn’t help wishing that I were part of a family just like this perfectly normal group of people.