Wednesday, July 21, 2010
Yesterday my husband had a story to share
We live across the street from a pool. My husband was walking home to start dinner when he saw a mom of three young children walking home as well. The children all appeared to be under the age of 5 and the mom was having a "time of it." It was one of those moments where the kids were all demanding something and she had nothing left to give. You know the feeling -- you just want to sit down on the sidewalk with your hands over her ears, rock back and forth until your fairy god mother comes to the rescue? (Can you tell I've been there about a million times?)
The baby in the stroller was crying loudly, the toddler was screaming that he wanted pretzels and the oldest child was misbehaving. Mom had run out of hands and momentum. She was visibly stressed and overwhelmed. My husband walked by this woman and said, "Hang in there, mom." There was no exchange of eye contact or additional words. He continued walking home.
My husband put the baked potatoes in the oven and started to walk back to the pool to re-join us. On the way back he ran into this mom again. This time, the situation was much calmer. The baby had stopped crying, the toddler was happily munching on pretzels and the oldest child was engaged in a conversations with his mom. As my husband approached the woman, she smiled and said, "Hey, thanks for that."
A little acknowledgment goes a long way
Was it the recognition of a difficult situation that helped this mom regain focus and balance? Was it the encouragement to "hang in there"? Did the chaos just work itself out? Did her fairy godmother come to the rescue? We will never know. What I do know is that in this situation, I would have really appreciated similar encouragement from a stranger. During my chaotic moments I actually look for eye contact, some acknowledgement, a life preserver, but I rarely get anything positive. I have been in countless situations where I was embarrassed, out of steam, wanting to cry and no one said a word. Worse yet, I got those looks like what kind of mother are YOU or why are you letting your children behave that way?
Every parent has been there, why don't we support each other more?
I haven't always stepped up
As my husband shared this story, I reflected on situations in the past where I could have acknowledged or supported another parent. Why didn't I step up? For me, it wasn't about judgement. I never look at a parent who is struggling and wonder about them as a parent. I have sympathy, empathy and strangely enough it normalizes my less then perfect moments. It makes me feel connected to that person, yet I never say a word.
Testing out my reflection
Yesterday, at the same pool, I witnessed the newly acquired ice cream of a two year-old fall off the stick, melted from the hot sun. This child instantly started screaming at the top of her lungs. Luckily her mom caught the ice cream in her hand, so it was still edible, but the child wanted no part of the hand held ice cream and was pitching an impressive fit. Everyone at the pool ignored the situation. I watched the mom. She was starting to get flustered, the parents started to argue about how to handle the situation and the screaming escalated. Then the mom's eyes met mine. I smiled, held my hand to my head and shook my head. She smiled and I could see her body relax. The screaming continued and she ended up taking the child away from the pool. The husband later came to me and said, "I guess it isn't a good idea to get ice cream on a stick in 90 degree weather, huh?" We laughed together.
Pay it forward
I am committed to paying this acknowledgement forward. Whether it is a smile, a "hang in there" or "I've been there", I will support strangers who are visibly having a hard time. My hope is that the recipients will feel the difference and pay it forward. Maybe on some small level, even if is just at my pool across the street, parents will abandon the embarrassment, the isolation and feel a little less frazzled when they are experiencing their own personal chaos.
What about you? Is there some acceptance, recognition or acknowledgment you can give in your corner of the world?
With you in all of your embarrassing and less then "perfect" moments,