This week I met with a friend for coffee. During our time together, we began talking about our kids, like any mother eventually does. Her kids are much younger than mine, so her stories brought back old memories…both good and “bad”.
In the telling of her stories, I could see in her eyes: joy, fear, guilt, frustration, anger, hope, confusion, love…all those emotions our children elicit from us on a daily basis. It reminded me of a time when a stranger made me cry.
Many moons ago, I took Jordan to lunch at Applebee’s after picking her up from preschool.
NOTE: I was a fairly new mom and parenting didn’t always feel natural for me. I struggled emotionally. I was a task-master. I loved working and struggled with being a stay at home mom. I did (and still do) not like to be uncomfortable, physically or mentally. To me, obstacles need to be overcome, a solution to be found. Well, in parenting all of these traits can be counter-intuitive and make parenting (and life) that much harder. My true person has not changed but I worked really hard to adjust my mindset and grow into being a better, more balanced parent. and, by the way, I am still working on these traits so I can be more accepting and present.
So, we are at Applebee’s. I am sure I encouraged 3-year-old Jordan to order for herself, we were playing games, and/or I was asking her questions and showing genuine interest in her and her day. I know I was praising her for actions and behaviors (I love psychology so THAT I knew to do). I don’t really remember all the nitty-gritty details. But a man came over to our table and said to me “YOU are a good mom.”
Even now, as I hear that memory in my head, I cry. How nice it was to hear a kind word from a stranger who had no ulterior motive or any pressure to do so. It is not very often someone compliments us. When that compliment is about something you feel so in adequate or insecure about, it makes it that much more meaningful and emotional. Mothers are rarely complimented. Shamed, yes. Judged, yes. Praised? Hardly ever.
The memory of this kind man is one of the most important memories I hold onto. It helps me through hard times with my kids. It reminds me that I do have some natural parenting skills or instincts. It is the kindness I need, when no one else is offering it.
I didn’t get a chance to tell my friend what a good job she was doing with her children (and she truly is). She is a natural mother, although it may not always feel that way to her. So I sent her an email and explained to her what I observed in our conversation and told her that she was a good mother. She seemed very appreciative. I know she will hold onto those words in tough times. They will help her build self-trust. I know this because I have been there. I am still there.
It is SO important to be kind and give words of encouragement and positive feedback, to our friends, family, co-workers, even strangers; maybe especially strangers. None of us hears it enough. We get plenty of judgement, name-calling, put-downs, and negative feedback. Hell, check out social media if you don’t believe me. But in real life there is not enough encouragement, empathy, and kindness.
On the flip side, giving a compliment can bring up some deep-seated emotions. I know I got emotional when I told my friend she was a good mom. When I want to say “thank you” to a soldier, I get so emotional that I can’t get the words out. I know their family’s pain and the sacrifice they made. I grew up with it, so it brings up some strong feelings from my childhood. One day I will find a way to get the words out. For some people, this type of emotion is scary and something they avoid at all costs. But in the end, you both will feel better. It is a win-win.
So if you see someone doing a good job, tell them. If you see a mom being a good mom, tell her. If you see a mom struggling , be supportive maybe give her a compliment on what she is doing well. It will help her more than you ever know.
Compliments are good for the soul for both the giver and the receiver.
Why not make a committment to compliment one stranger this week?
See how it goes.
I would love to hear your story and I am sure others would to.