Sometimes you just feel like you can't catch a break. You plan for what should be a simple outing, and when you get to where you are going, everything falls apart. Take this real life scenario from a couple of years ago, for example:
I needed to buy groceries, and so I planned a trip to Wegmans. Having no childcare that day, I put extra effort into what I was bringing with me and into the things I would need to do to make it a successful trip. I called ahead to Wegmans to make sure that they had adequate staffing to accommodate Lulu, as she requires a dedicated person to be with her due to her adventurous nature (read: she climbs on EVERYTHING). Having set up a timeframe in which we could arrive, the girls and I headed to Wegmans, where Lulu would go have an hour of play while Annie would shop with me since she had aged out of WKids. We walked in, headed toward the play center, and found out that for whatever reason they were not able to take her as they had originally planned.
<Queue the hysterics!>
First I explained to Lulu that she couldn't go in today because W-Kids was closed. I said that she would have so much fun in the cart with her sister pushing her throughout the store.
<Ear piercing scream emitted here>
Lulu tried to get into the room by attempting to climb over the half-door. She cried. She screamed. She would not listen to reason. She just kept looking at me with those big beautiful eyes that were so full of hurt, saying repeatedly, "W-Kids? W-Kids?" (My heart shattered into a million pieces that day). The W-Kids worker said that she was sorry, and that Lulu could come in next time. Lulu just kept saying "W-Kids?" as I fought back tears. Finally I did what I very, very rarely do...I asked her if she wanted to play with my cell phone (I have not allowed her to make my phone a toy for her to use at her whim -- this takes some perseverence on my part!). She was having no part of it.
After what seemed like an eternity, I went to my last resort -- I handed Annie a couple of bucks and gave her strict orders to GO BUY HER SISTER A HERSHEY BAR! She took a couple of steps and, since she was never one to pass up on a golden opportunity, turned around to say, "Sooooo, can I have one too?" Oh. My. God. Seriously? I (not so calmly) replied, "Yes, Annie, just pick something out FAST!" (Annie did as she was told (this was her first experience with actually purchasing something at a store), and ran back to us at full speed, candy bars in hand. She showed Lulu the candy bar and said, "Laurie, we need to go to the car. You can have chocolate if you come with me." This took a little coercion but finally Lulu agreed to walk out to the car.
While I was getting her jacket back onto her, this woman who had been standing near the exit just watching everything as it unfolded walked over to me and said, "I just want to tell you that you really are a great mom. You're doing a great job with her."
All I could do was just look at her. I was completely dumbfounded. I had never laid eyes on this person before or since. I thought that anyone watching would be witnessing all of the parenting no-nos that a person could make -- giving in, bribing with chocolate, offering technology as a solution instead of teaching my daughter a lesson in coping and going with the flow. I thought I was at my parenting worst. Instead this woman saw me as a parent who was trying to work through a difficult situation with a child who obviously had issues with coping and understanding. This was a woman who was trying to show empathy...who was trying to show that someone cared...was trying to show kindness. At least this is how it appeared to me.
I saw this quote a long time ago, but it came roaring back into the forefront of my mind:
Everyone is fighting a battle you know nothing about. Be kind. Always.
This is just a good rule for life.
So to that woman in Wegmans - thank you for not judging my ineptness to calm my little girl. I am forever grateful for your kindness. It stays with me even years afterward.