It started innocently enough, just a casual conversation with a stranger in the checkout lane. She was friendly, young, and juggling a baby and a two year old. She had that look that most moms of toddlers have – tired, but used to functioning in a state of exhaustion and exasperation.
More than likely, she was asking questions in an attempt to have a conversation with another adult. You know…someone who could respond to her without whining or crying. She picked the wrong adult, because I was on the verge of both.
It had been a morning from hell. Both kids woke up in a bad mood, I was so sore from my workout the day before I couldn’t take a deep breath, and we were out of coffee. My daughter forgot how to add and my son forgot how to write and I forgot how to be patient.
I sent them both to their rooms to do a deep clean and ran to the grocery store to get coffee, peanut butter, and milk and try to decompress for a few minutes. And then this happened…
This young lady, although tired, was pulled together. Her hair was done. Hair was fixed. A little makeup on. The kids were clean and were trying, but failing, to be well-behaved. I told her that I remembered when my kids were those ages and how hard that was. She looked at me and I saw that her eyes were tearing up. She took a deep breath and asked, “It gets better, right?”
I wanted to lie to her and say that it did get better. I wanted to say that once they were five years old, life was smooth sailing. But I didn’t want to lie to her – she looked like she was really asking, not just trying to be soothed for the next 5 minutes. Plus, I’d had a bad morning. I wasn’t ready to file away the rough edges of parenting.
So I told her truth.
I told her it didn’t get better – it just changed a little. The frustrations she would have were about different things. I told her that there were good days and bad days. I told her that there would be times when she wished her life was different and times when she was the happiest woman in the world. I told her the bad days seem to fade from your memories, but the good days stay with you. I told her that today was a bad day at my house, too, but that we would get through it. I told her she was strong and to never doubt she was a good mom. I gave her a hug. She looked like she needed it.
She smiled and said she needed some girl talk that morning. I totally understood that. I needed it that morning, too. I was talking to myself as much as I was talking to her.
Recently, I had the pleasure of taking a trip with some amazing ladies who are helping other women realize their full potential. In the car, there were discussions about helping to prevent teen pregnancy and how to encourage girls to attend college. We toured Cottey College (an all girls college largely funded by PEO) and met some incredible young women who are doing fabulous things in their community and beyond. These women are helping other women – looking out for their futures and building networks of support.
It made me realize I am not doing enough to encourage others, to help others, to give hugs and push them in the right direction. I’m just in my own little world, worrying about my own little self, and not reaching out the way I should be.
Shame on me.
We are ALL going through something, we all need encouragement, and we all need to fall apart every once in a while. There’s no shame in asking for help and there’s certainly no shame in giving help, encouragement, and love to those around you.
So…I’m going to start doing more. Even little things like telling a harried mom how well-behaved her kids are can make her day. A great outfit, a cute haircut, a great presentation…I’ll give these recognition. I’ll encourage good decisions and be available as a sounding board to those going through tough times.
And thank you to the girl at the grocery store. I came home in a much better mood, and just so you know…
That day did get a lot better.
Maybe the more girl talk you have, the better it gets. It’s worth a try.
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