As we were coming through the automated barrier at the train station my wife overheard the following conversation.
Girl: “Can I put the ticket in the machine?”
Mother: “No, I’ll do it. I want it done properly.”
And that was basically it. The little girl had seen our youngest daughter doing the ticket herself and wanted to do the same. A small ambition defeated.
Because it was a defeat. Okay, on its own it may not be much but together with all the other little defeats it starts to mean something. Every “no” and every put down, whatever the intention, adds up.
And it was only one incident but it doesn’t seem beyond the realm of possibility that there are other, similar exchanges in the little girl’s life. Not because the girl’s mother was bad person but because those incidents can become as much a habit for the parent as they do a reality for the child.
Like so many habits and patterns, the little behaviours that affect other people need to be constantly watched for; they creep up on us. It’s not malice, sometimes it’s just what happens when we don’t think about our behaviour towards others, when we don’t regularly step outside ourselves.
The drips of interaction between parent and child are small things. It would have taken ten seconds for a child to use the ticket barrier on her own. But it’s an important ten seconds. Instead of those little drips wearing away at something they’d be filling it up.