She is the only person with grown children, and one of the few Mothers over all, that has not once belittled my frustration with life with three little kids.
She has continually told me it gets better, to hang in there, but she has never given me that horrid and dismissive response that is so quick to escape other Mother's mouths, "enjoy them while they're young. It goes by too quickly. You'll miss it."
She has written me a message to say she understands, she too was often alone with her three small children and the days are long and lonely. She even has admitted the one thing that I truly believe, but no one else wants to say, "you'll enjoy them more when they are a little older."
Why is that so difficult to imagine? Why isn't anyone else saying that?
I get that the problems are more complicated, potentially more serious, but life right now isn't exactly emotional easy street. It's tough to enjoy someone that screams loudly, and often while you are trying to do nice things for them like feed them and clean them.
Why must they be mean when we are trying to be so nice?
I think of her quite often during my difficult days. She is a bright spot of hope among the constant onslaught of dismissive and degrading comments I get from all directions these days.
As I was leaving the pediatrician's office last week with Stella still crying from her shots, and a very over tired Cole, a woman stepped in to the elevator and gave me a very sweet smile. I smiled back, trying to ignore the beginnings of Cole's tantrum over why he couldn't play the iPad for the third hour in a row. I finally gave him a stern look which I really hoped said, "for the love of God, shut your mouth and cooperate or I'm telling Santa to skip you this year and give all your gifts to Stella."
This woman then leaned over and touched my arm and gave me a disapproving yet sympathetic-ish look and said, "It goes by so fast sweetheart, just try to enjoy them."
I get it. I do. Your kids are grown now and no one is asking you to rock them to sleep or tickle their belly, and that stuff is painfully cute and to be cherished. Possibly you are dealing with kids experimenting with drugs or being bullied, there is all sorts of tough stuff out in the big bad world that is rough for them, and for you the parent. How though can you look at someone in the middle of a clearly frustrating situation that can often leave them feeling like a failure at the most important thing in their life and tell them to only feel joy that they get to have their kids with them ALL THE TIME?
That's not very Aunt Carol of you.
We should all be grateful, all the time, for where we are in life. The reality though is that life, regardless of where you are, gives you challenges...thank goodness. I'm grateful that I have my children, and all their challenges, but I don't have to relish and delight in every exhausting moment to prove it, because I am a real life person instead of a joy robot.
Are you a joy robot? I don't want to be one.
Can I get a little more Aunt Carol out there in the world? Can you just smile and say, these days can be rough, it will get better? Can you say that to me regardless of how old they are? I am confident I will be frustrated by my children when they are 13 too, but it will be different and I am grateful for the way that my challenges are going to change, and all of us are going to grow and mature. I hope.
Wait...when am I going to mature?
At Target today, (moment of silence for my return to shopping at Target and all the financial turmoil that it brings,) Cole broke a Christmas ornament before I even knew he was standing next to the breakables. Wonderful.
I looked around and saw two women were giving me a less than joyful look. Happy holidays ladies.
An older woman standing behind Cole said, "Honey, that's why you really can't let them out of the cart, or you just should come by yourself."
What a helpful suggestion! I had never thought of going without my kids. I LOVE having them with me for shopping trips, especially when I have a lot to do. It never occurred to me to not have them experience the joy of shopping.
Oh....but wait...what the hell do you suggest I do with my kids lady? When exactly do you think I should come on over to Target solo? Around 10 pm when my husband is finally home? That sounds super!
I felt more than a little frustrated with this oversimplification of my situation. Here's a tip strangers, telling someone that you don't know how to live their life is not a helpful idea. It's demeaning and sort of hurtful to throw out your solutions while someone is having a tough time. You should be saying nothing, or asking how you can help. That's it.
As I was reaching for the broken ornament, another woman came along and picked the ornament out of Cole's hand. "Here, let me help you. You have a lot to take care of here. No matter how sweet, two little ones are a lot of work."
I instantly loved this woman. She was channeling the sympathy and kindness of Aunt Carol. I profusely thanked her, letting her know that her kindness meant a lot to me. One last glance at the old lady know it all, a final thank you to the nice woman, and I was off to find the nearest red shirt to whom I could confess my son's merchandise destruction.
Everyone has something going on and no one is without some sort of struggle. Help the overwhelmed mother shopping with her little kids because it will mean a lot.
And if you have older kids, please try to remember how exhausting and lonely it can be have little ones, as well as how cute the kids are. These two things have absolutely nothing to do with one another. Your time with the challenges of little ones may be gone, but some of us are still in the thick of things, praising God for our children, but also praying for mercy at every tantrum, whine, and sleepless night.
Be the encouraging Aunt Carol, because everyone likes her more than the dismissive lady in the elevator, especially me.