The Mommy Kindness Project
So, why is it, if every parent has these moments do they still they tend to look down their nose in judgement at another parent when they are having one? To be quite honest, I am not proud of it, but I have done the same. Most often it was when I was married without children and thought, "My child will never do that." Or "I will never talk to my kid that way." Now, when I think of my pre-child self I just laugh. (One piece of advice for parents or non parents-never say never. And I hope that you have the song from American Tail running through your head right now instead of Justin Bieber.)
My moment when someone stood in judgement of me was at the park one day last week. It was probably one of the last absolutely beautiful, completely warm days we would get this year. I needed to go to the grocery store, but decided to make it a fun morning by spending some time at the park. The morning seemed perfect. I had just gotten a new phone for an early Christmas present and I was able to take some amazing photos of my cutie pie while we played.
And then it happened. All hell seemed to break loose. One second things were going wonderful and then another Alexandria had taken a ball from another little girl and was running across the park with it. I was able to retrieve it after an agonizing chase, however it didn't stop there. A few minutes later she walks up to the little girl's baby sister and gently pushes her. Alexandria loves babies, but this baby was just walking and wasn't very stable and almost fell. I was so embarrassed. I wasn't sure if she was really pushing her or giving her a love tap (which I have seen her do innocently to other little kids before), but either way, the look on the dad's face conveyed it all. His eyes bore daggers into Alexandria like she was Satan's spawn. I tried to explain to her that it was a baby and she couldn't do that to her. The dad scooped the baby up and they left the park, not giving me an opportunity to have Alexandria apologize. Alexandria, of course, obsessed with the older sister's ball went off running after them and I had to run after her (which because of my medical condition was painful and could possibly cause a flare later.) It all went downhill from there. Alexandria was put in time out for running off (a problem we have been having with her recently in public places), somehow my brand new phone got knocked onto the concrete floor of the pavilion we were sitting in and the screen cracked, Alexandria fell off the picnic table where she was in time out and hit her head on the concrete. My Facebook status that day read, "This is turning out to be a terrible, no good, very bad kind of day." Looking back, I realize it probably wasn't as bad as all that, but at the time it all made me feel pretty crappy.
I don't blame the dad that gave my child a dirty look for my bad day, but what if he would have taken a minute and told me it was okay. Let me do my "parenting" and allow Alexandria to apologize to his child? What if he would have said, "We have days like that too."? Perhaps his few words of encouragement would have helped bolster me for the rest of the day. Helped me because I would have known I was not alone. Instead his response made me feel defeated.
This morning when I was going for my swim (I go twice during the week to give me some quiet time and sanity), I observed a mom ushering her little girl into the pool area for swim lessons. As they passed me the little girl looked up at me curiously with big blue eyes while her mom prompted her to hurry towards the pool. After I was done swimming, the mom and the little girl came into the shower area as well. As I was showering I couldn't help to notice how sweet the exchange between the mom and little girl was. The little girl was obviously older than Alexandria, but with her long blond hair and blue eyes, she reminded me of her. I listened as the mom helped her shower and didn't yell at her when she accidentally sprayed her with the shower head. The little girl went and got dressed by herself and brushed her hair, then came back to help her mom. It was the sweetest thing I had ever witnessed in the shower room between a mom an daughter. Suddenly a light bulb went off. Why don't you tell them? I see a lot of moms with their kids and am inspired by the moms who in spite of their children's craziness or seemingly obnoxious questions are able to be patient and keep their cool. This little girl was super sweet, but she was constantly afraid something bad was going to happen to her and I realized the mom had probably been asked these types of questions 100 times already that day, yet she remained cool.
I am a shy person by nature and let me tell you the last thing I wanted to do was talk to a complete stranger (especially during my quiet time). Not only that, it was extremely awkward to not just say "hi" and smile, but to actually give them a compliment. If the mom was anything like me, she didn't have a lot of people giving her compliments throughout the day. More than anything she probably had people giving her unsolicited advice or dirty looks if her child did act up. As I was making my way to dry my hair the mom walked by. I mustered my courage and said, "You two are so sweet together." From there, as we both got ready, a conversation started. Not only was I able to encourage her, but she was able to encourage me with her experience with not just one child, but two other school aged children as well. She made me think that when we do decide to have more kids, that it may have it's difficult times at first (at one point she said she used to pray "Lord get me through this" every time she had to have a locker room experience with all three of them), but that the older the get the easier it was.
So, I have decided to start my own personal "Mommy Kindness Project". It is as simple as it sounds. When I see a mom or dad doing some awesome parenting (regardless of how their child is behaving) I am going to tell them to keep up the good work. When I see a parent struggling, I am going to encourage them with kind words. With so much negativity in the world, it is the least I can do to help parents know they are not alone. I am a firm believer that it takes a village. And the village isn't just for the kids, it's for the parents too.
Will you join me? I would love to hear any encouraging stories you have. I will try to relay my stories to you as time permits. This isn't just a holiday thing, I am hoping through it we can change the communities that we live, play and breathe in.
And this doesn't have to be just for parents either. We could all use a dose of kindness whether we are 5 or 85.