We spent the day traveling yesterday. By “traveling,” I mean transporting myself, two children, and our immediate possessions a distance of 1,700 miles, and by “day” I mean a period of 8 hours. The time from the moment we left my parents’ house in Minnesota to the time we arrived at our house in Oregon felt like about 3 extremely-condensed days’ worth of activity. Not all of those 8 hours felt like actual traveling (certainly not the time we spent in the security line at the Minneapolis airport), though I guess they were since our bodies were nearly always in some state of forward motion.
In our 40 minutes of minutive movement in the security line, I was able to study what I call the “FYI” photos of the full-body scan that some travelers are asked to undergo.
FYI, you may be asked to step into this machine and raise your arms so that we can scan you from head to toe and see what’s under your clothes. FYI, we can’t see your private parts. Not really. Just to show you, here’s an example some of photos that show what we see when we look at the monitors.
The faces are blurred for privacy. FYI, they’re not really blurred in the real-life scan, only this photo because it’s on display.
Oh, and FYI, this is optional! If the idea of this scan makes you uncomfortable, you may choose an alternative security check; it would be a full-body pat-down. We find that if people aren’t comfortable with the under-the-clothes scan, they’re a lot more comfortable having their body physically probed.
Although none of us were selected for a scan or the alternative (if you so choose) pat-down yesterday, I personally have experienced both before, as have both my kids. The security officials try to give you a choice in the matter (scan vs. pat-down) and make sure you’re “OK” during the process (“I’m going to put my hand right here on your chest, OK?” What’s the right answer here? Umm, “OK.”), but once they ask you to step aside for further inspection, not complying is not an option. Not if you want to keep moving forward and get where you’re going.
There’s nothing like airport security to invoke a sense of powerlessness.
It gave me a perspective of what children must feel like when there’s something that has to get done…cleaning up, brushing teeth, getting dressed, getting in the car….and we parents try to give them some choice in the outcome. “Do you want to put the books away or pick up the legos? Which toothpaste would you like to use? Do you feel like wearing the red shirt or the blue one today? Do you want to walk, run, or hop to the car?” This is a standard tool in positive discipline; limited choices. But I sure didn’t like my experience with limited choices at the airport. I didn’t want either choice; I didn’t want to do it!
I realized one important element was missing: connection.
Airport Security Guy and I? We didn’t connect. There was no eye contact, no commiseration, no empathetic statements of how much it stinks to go through security, no inquiries about my day or comments on my cute kids. Security Guy was focused and professional, but his stoic politeness was a poor substitute for genuine kindness in a situation in which I was very unhappy. Had he made any attempt to connect with me, I would have wanted to be friendly and compliant; to make his day brighter and his job just a little bit easier. As it happened, I felt angry and inconvienenced, and Security Guy neither understood nor cared.
At least I know first-hand how important in-the-moment connection is, and I can give my kids that when they don’t want to do something that is, quite simply, required.
Empathy, compassion, kindness. They are tremendously important if we’re to work together with our kids and move from unhappy compliance to willing cooperation. And, hey, not just children, but us grown-ups, too, right? As I realized, these elements help us want to do what’s necessary, as they connect us on a very human level.