Recently I was out for dinner with my two daughters. As per usual my children were friendly & smiley towards those seated around us, including the table with a family that had two older girls. Following our meal, on the way out of the restaurant, the mom of the family with the daughters stopped me. She asked the ages of my children (3 & 1), commented on how busy I must be (in a knowing sort of way) & then complimented their behaviour throughout the meal.
The exchange of that evening got me thinking about how I interact with other parents, whether I know them or not. We’ve all been there, someone starts melting down in the middle of the store & everyone is all eyes. Some give the sympathetic look, portraying complete understanding of the situation. Others are judgemental, usually as they’ve never been in that situation themselves. Occasionally a passerby will offer the words, “this too shall pass.” But still there the desperate parent is, struggling to keep it together & help their child get it together.
The thing that stuck out to me about my interaction with the fellow girl mom following our mealtime out, was that she didn’t offer me some cliche phrase to make me feel guilty about not savouring these hectic, busy baby & toddler years, rather encouraged my children & more directly my parenting.
I can totally appreciate the sentiment of the phrase, “this too shall pass.” Parents of adult children never fail to let you know that “before you know it they’re grown,” & any parent knows this all too well. I mean, hello, where has the last year gone? Just like that I’m on the cusp of full on toddlerhood with my second child! The days may be long, but the years are certainly, very short. And although that short phrase, “this too shall pass,” is intended to offer some sort of hope, it still leaves a parent feeling desperate & in the moment, often like a failure.
I know that in those crazy moments when the sh*t is hitting the fan & meltdown mode is in full swing, it’s like a car crash; it’s so bad that you want to look away, but you just can’t. Imagine if rather than giving that awkward, knowing smile, or offering some cliche that offers little to no hope in that precise moment, if we simply said, “you’re doing a good job.”
I’ll be honest, I’m my own worst critic when it comes to parenting. There are countless times when I beat myself up as I drift to sleep about situations that I could have handled better, been more patient, spoke more softly, been more kind, been more engaged… What I need more than anything from those who have been there isn’t unsolicited advice (social media offers enough of that, thank you very much), or a catchphrase to make me feel guilty. What I need is someone who’s been there to identify that I am in fact doing the best that I can given the circumstances.
So the next time I witness a meltdown in the grocery store, knowing the self condemnation that accompanies your child losing it, I’ll be the first offer the phrase, “you’re doing a good job,” because really, aren’t we all just hungry for validation? Parenthood is hard enough on it’s own with sleepless nights, endless laundry, mealtime mishaps & feeding struggles, playtime struggles, the witching hour, chaotic bath & bedtimes, potty training, explosive poos, meltdown moments, figuring out childcare etc. etc. etc. What we really need from other parents is a cheer squad. Unless asked, I won’t offer advice, just encouragement.
Goodness knows we all need.