Today at the beach, as I juggled bags, an infant, and redirected a four year old too many times, I felt like there were eyes on me. People wondering why I would even bother taking a cranky preschooler and a newborn to the beach by myself. People wondering why my snotty four year old was less than grateful that I packed his toys and surprised him with a trip to the water when I picked him up from school.
But just as I unfolded the blanket and sat down, an older woman walked our way. I was right, she had eyes (and ears) on us, but it became apparent that she was seeing something else entirely when she smiled and said "How old is your baby? He's beautiful. You're doing a great job, Mom."
It took me back to the time when Eldon threw a tantrum in the middle of the bookstore. I was embarrassed and made him leave the book he had picked as we walked outside and sat down on the sidewalk. I sat next to him and waited for him to calm himself enough to talk about it. I knew people saw the tantrum, and I knew they saw me literally drag him out of the store. What I didn't know, is that some of them saw my calm. Some of them took notice of the fact that I didn't give in, and that I addressed the problem regardless of who was watching
and as we sat there on the concrete, they filed out one by one. They smiled and offered words like
"You're a great mom"
"I have been there. Keep up the good work."
It was just what I needed to find the answer, the confidence, and get my son back on track.
Parenting is one of the hardest jobs in the world, and also the one with the least recognition. Because we CHOOSE it. Because it's not really a "job," it's just what you do when you have kids. You take care of them.
Because it is expected that we parent well, those words are even more encouraging.
Every time a stranger doles out those compliments, every time my ex thanks me for being a good mom to his kids, it stops me in my tracks.
I run on that high for the rest of the day, remembering that some one appreciates the work I put into my every single day. Sure, I know that some day my kids will appreciate what I do, but it's nice to feel appreciated now.
It stays at the front of my mind and I parent better because I know that the effort isn't lost.
Such a simple gesture, such a massive impact.
As proud as I am of my kids and of the hard work I have invested in them, I am also grateful to the other parents who bust their asses so that when our kids are the ones running our world, they aren't total assholes.
If you are a husband and/or father and it has been awhile since you told your wife, tell her. THANK her for being a good mom. It might seem silly, but I promise you she will never forget it.
If you are a grandparent, it's easy to notice the differences in generations/parenting styles. Your kids probably feel scrutinized as they raise your grandchildren. TELL them that they are good parents. If it means this much coming from a stranger, imagine what it means coming from you.
If you notice a stranger in public giving a crap about their kids, let them know that you notice. Offer a smile and never underestimate the incredible power of a straightforward "You're a great dad."
This is my goal this week. To spread the love and encouragement. To put a little bounce in the step of an overtired mama the way that this stranger did for me today.
So, thank you for raising good kids. Thank you for loving them enough to raise them in a way that you feel will allow them to offer their very best to the world some day.
We deserve a little credit.