I remember each one of them. There have been five. All women. All mothers. All strangers. Every circumstance was different. Few words were exchanged but what was said meant everything to me at the time.
Words so simple that they probably went on with their day without thinking about it again. Yet the words were so impactful to me that I have gone on to repeat them as often as I can.
Errands are a necessary evil of motherhood. As mothers we know the hardest place to parent is out in public. The world is moving too fast or too slow to accommodate our restless/hungry/bored/wired/tired children. Nothing makes you more hypersensitive to the world around you like being out in public with your children.
While I have had my share of rude and inappropriate comments from strangers, it’s the support from five women that has stuck with me. I want to be the one that another mother remembers. Whenever I can, I say these words to mothers I don’t know.
“You go first.”
I was where every stay-at-home-mom is on a Tuesday morning: in line at Target. My cart runneth over with crayons and young children. A mother with her college-aged daughter was in front of me at the register. I had about four minutes and 36 seconds before the whole situation would self-combust when the baggie of Goldfish was empty. My fellow mother knew it, too. She had once been there and spared me by uttering three magic words: “You go first.”
Sure her wait extended by three minutes, but those three minutes would have cost me a meltdown that lasted the next 15. She got it. It was the best thing anyone said to me all day.
The next night when my husband got home from work I had to make a quick run to the grocery store to buy milk (the one thing I had actually gone to Target to buy the day before!). A mom with her hungry three-year-old and a cart of groceries got in line behind me. “You go first,” I said with a friendly wink.
“I’ll open it.”
I’ve been pushing a stroller around for half a decade. There is nothing more laborious than trying to hold a door open whilst maneuvering 40 pounds on wheels through it. I’m constantly amazed at the people who will stand behind me or simply go around instead of holding the door open.
While on a trip to the mall last year another mother parked next to me and walked to the doors. I spent the next 10 minutes unloading three children from the car and loading up three children into a stroller. What I didn’t know was that mom was waiting by the heavy glass doors of the entrance so that she could hold the doors open for me. I’ll use any help I can get during the day and her helpfulness ranked #1 that day.
Every time I see a mother with a stroller I am quick to run ahead and tell her, “I’ll open it.” Moms have to do enough heavy lifting in a day that the least we can do is open the door for one another.
“Let me help.”
Unfortunate timing to the grocery store once left me running to my car with a cart full of groceries and a 10-month-old baby in the pouring rain. As I rushed to buckle him into the car a woman walked by and said, “Let me help.” As I strapped the baby in she loaded my grocery bags into the trunk. I was in awe that a stranger would recognize a mom who needed an extra hand –not to mention an umbrella.
During another rainstorm I walked out of the store to find a mom ready to make a run for it. I simply offered to wait by the door with her food while she and her child went to retrieve the car. Karma was on my side that day. By the time she pulled up the rain dissipated and I didn’t get soaked walking to my car.
“Take your time.”
Strapping children into car seats could be considered an Olympic event. Nothing makes you work up a sweat faster than trying to lock down 30 pounds under a five-point harness.
Inevitably, while you’re struggling to get your rabid child into a seat the person in the car next to yours walks up. They either stand at the bumper watching or get in their car and rev the engine. Either way you feel like you’re a nuisance in the parking lot. Your toddler senses your urgency and adds a few kicks to your jaw.
I was in the middle of a wrestling match with my two-year-old and his car seat when another mother walked by and said, “Take your time.” I didn’t know what she meant until she got in the car next to me. She waited until my child was buckled and I had loaded the stroller up before she started her engine. It slowed her down a few extra minutes but I was relieved to be cut a little slack.
When I approach a mom in the car next to mine I now give her a little shout out to “take your time.” It assures her that I don’t mind waiting and that I’m also not going to run over her toes. Kids and car seats don’t give slack but other mothers can.
I know that at times we’re out with our own kids and can’t be helping every mother who crosses our path. I get that. Sometimes I can barely hold it together for myself. But some days I can, and that’s when I try to be the one that another mom remembers. Be the one she remembers.