22 August 2008

On a "motherclass"

I went to Birmingham today, by train, and the journey was a succession of disasters (which translates as "mildly irritating delays" in the overall scheme of things).

But so it happened that I had to take a train from Coventry to Milton Keynes (about 1650 from Coventry, in case anyone wants to pin this down) and found myself in a seat in front of a mother with two young daughters of about 3 and 5, who articulated and projected very well. I resigned myself to an hour of purgatory. Instead I got an hour of heaven.

You are a mother on your own, with two girls, on a much delayed train to London which is packed. The three of you are sharing two seats. They are tired and a little fractious. It's a recipe for short tempers and peremptory orders and threats and...

No. I was privileged to listen (although not watch) from the seat in front. Mother responded with patience and courtesy to whatever the girls came up with, including burps. She played games to settle them (Let's see who can keep their eyes closed for longest) and when that didn't work she had other games for them (counting and reading, but more important, engaging and fun) and she responded to them with patience and encouragement. And clearly with love and pride--as well she might, because these little girls may well conquer the world.

I considered saying something to her as I left the train, but one of the girls was just settling down to sleep and I couldn't think of how to say anything which would not come across as patronising. So in the unlikely scenario that she or someone who knows her reads this, my thanks for more than making up for the delays caused by a fire on a freight train at Bletchley.

Not that she will care less; she has much more important concerns.


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