This is the 6th edition of the “Ordinary People, Extraordinary Decisions” series where we highlight another person who embodies the statement: “Change the way you think, and you can change the world.” View the entire series here.
As I settled into my seat for my flight to Austin, TX today I was a little concerned when I heard that the 2 rows behind me were being saved for a mom with 6 children. I can imagine flying with 1 child could be a nightmare, so I couldn’t imagine how brave this mom of 6 must be. I’ll admit that my first thought was “thank goodness I remembered my noise cancelling headphones.”
You know how young children can be….loud, energetic, emotional, and always talking. Recently, I baby-sat my 3 year old nephew and I was exhausted after answering the million questions he asked during the movie “Up!” “What is Kevin doing?” “Where did the doggie go?” “Why is he hurt real bad?” Where is the house going?” “Why is he sad?” “What is Kevin doing?” You get the picture. Interestingly, just a few hours later he wanted to watch the movie again and asked all of the exact same questions again! I’m not a very good babysitter because after a while I started answering his questions with the same question. Him: “Where is the house going” Me: “I don’t know…where do you think the house is going?”
Most moms would be exhausted and annoyed with 6 children (ages 3 to 9 years old) asking questions non-stop for hours on end, but not this mom. Throughout the flight, the children asked questions and she always responded thoughtfully in terms they could understand, and then challenged them to think further about the topic. For instance, when one child asked what time they would arrive in Dallas, she answered “1:00, now do you think that’s A.M or P.M?” The 9 year old thought for a second and said “P.M. I remember that because A.M stands for ‘at morning’ and P.M. stands for ‘past morning.” The mom congratulated him on his correct answer, but told him that she was pretty sure A.M and P.M have a different true meaning. She told him that when they landed, his assignment was to find out what A.M and P.M really stand for and teach all of the family what he learned. It was adorable, and it actually made me want to look up the answer myself.
As I continued eavesdropping, I listened to the mom explain to the children that their friends may or may not be able to go on a cruise they planned due to the dad’s work schedule. When the children asked why, she explained that the father is a doctor and is scheduled to be “on call” that weekend. She explained that people get sick and hurt every single day, so there has to be a doctor ready to help if something happens. She then asked the children if they could imagine what it would be like to have their bags packed and be excited about a family vacation only to learn that it must be cancelled at the last minute. She listened to each one express how they would feel in that situation. She then asked them to think of 2-3 things that they could do to make those children feel better. Each child thought carefully and reported back with their adorable ideas. She even explained what travel insurance was, and asked the kids to give an example of why that would be an important thing to purchase.
I was absolutely amazed by this phenomenal woman. She is raising 6 beautiful, intelligent, and thoughtful children. She is already challenging their critical thinking, and asking them to engage in adult conversations about emotions, consequences, and creativity. She is a SUPER MOM!
In past Ordinary People, Extraordinary Decisions posts, I’ve focused on people who’ve made a news-worthy impact on the world, but the Tonney family is just as deserving of the spotlight. This one amazing woman is making education and critical thinking a priority every second of the day. When those children grow up, they are more likely to pass those same skills/abilities on to their children. Yes, Ms. Tonney is an ordinary mom, but she is making an extraordinary impact on this world. She is an inspiration. Thank you for sharing your gifts with the rest of the passengers today!
What did you do to make a difference today?
Want to hear about another inspirational story with incredible decision making and critical thinking? Check out the Now You’re Thinking book (available for pre-order on Amazon this month).
Editor’s Note: Breanne Harris is the Solutions Architect for Pearson TalentLens. She works with customers to design selection and development plans that incorporate critical thinking assessments and training. She has a Master’s degree in Organizational Psychology and has experience in recruiting, training, and HR consulting. She is the chief blogger for Critical Thinkers and occasionally posts at ThinkWatson. Connect with her on LinkedIn and Twitter for more of her thoughts.