Mama, I want you to know that I saw you. You were at a play date for your active, curious, independent three year old with his twin infant siblings in tow. You nursed each baby at different times (and I thought nursing one baby while keeping up with her older sister was a challenge!) while walking around and keeping an eye on and engaging with your older son. I was so impressed! Then came the time all parents dread – having to convince your toddler that it’s time to leave. After a morning of running, playing, and mess making in the sun, he was tired and unreasonable and insistent on staying. He screamed, kicked, cried, and threw an epic tantrum. (If you have or have had a three year old, you know the kind…)
You strapped the babies into the stroller, chased him across the playground, and brought him over to you. I watched out of the corner of my eye wishing I could do something to help, but you didn’t need it. You got down on his level and spoke calmly to him. You encouraged him to take deep breaths and to unclench his fists. You never raised your voice, made threats, or got impatient. You showered him with love – not encouraging or condoning his behavior, but completely diffusing the emotions behind his outburst instead of escalating yours (like I so often do.) You killed it. It took a few minutes, but he calmed down and you walked your family to the car.
As I’m writing this, it’s been a few weeks since that day. Yet still, I can replay the story above in my head so clearly and remember so badly wanting to just say, ‘You’re doing a great job!’
I hate that I didn’t.
If you’re anything like me (and most moms, I think) you probably felt like everyone was watching and judging you and/or your child in those moments. I wish I could go back and give you some encouragement. Isn’t that what we all long for? To be recognized and commended and reminded that we’re doing our best? To be met with commiseration, understanding, and love from fellow moms instead of judgement?
Since then, I’ve really committed to saying out loud what I often think in my head when I see a mom winning at parenting – ‘You’re doing awesome, whether you feel like it or not!’ I don’t know if it’s the tendency to compare ourselves, the fact that motherhood is often thankless, or the whole mom guilt thing, but I don’t know many women who think they’re doing a great job. Having somewhat been in this mama’s shoes (minus an extra baby) I know how exhausting and draining a day – week? – full of tantrums like that can be, and how humbling it is to have your child thrashing around screaming at you in public.
I may have missed my opportunity with her, but I’m determined not to next time.