Here I am. Sitting on a red rectangular story time mat that my daughter very thoughtfully picked out. First she noted the purple one to her left and the green one to her right. Then she chose the red one in the middle. South African music is playing softly in the background; all the toddlers are playing amongst themselves in what felt like a perfect atmosphere (compared to the terrible two horrors that managed to control my entire morning). Think: buttons scattered all over the living room, a brand new bottle of moisturizer smeared all over the dining room floor and all over my daughter, a full on food war with oatmeal that I even put sprinkles on… come on sprinkles! Nope, she still wouldn’t budge.. she forcefully declined by throwing it all over the floor after smearing some of it all over the high chair, of course.
Do you get my drift about the story time setting being peaceful? Then... in comes a mom pulling (more like dragging) her two kids by their animal leash backpacks. I was never a fan of those… but you start to reconsider their value once your toddler turns two. Let’s get back to the other mom. This mom had it written all over her face that she wasn’t having any of it. She continued to pull her kids until she got to her yellow mat, in which she managed to grab her older child by his one arm so hard, it lifted him off the ground. Then she put him down so aggressively that he face planted as soon as she let go and he started crying, but she didn’t seem to care much. She consoled him after getting settled in, but wasn’t quite all there. Every moms face showed what I felt - disbelief that she just treated her child that way so blatantly in front of every one. Her child’s crying actually started a domino effect and three other babies started to cry (my child started whimpering because it threw her off and she didn’t quite know what was going on) and the atmosphere changed instantly. I’ve never seen anything quite like it and I wasn’t too happy about it either because honestly, I preferred that sliver of guaranteed peace and fun in my day every week.
Naturally, I continued to keep my eye on her the entire story time because I felt for her children and secretly wanted to snuggle them. She continued to be very passive aggressive with them and was very mean spirited in the way she spoke to them and handled them. NOT COOL.
Needless to say, story time went on, and my day went one as normal. As I was doing the dishes later that afternoon while my daughter was napping, it all hit me. God has a way of nudging at my heart, and once He does, it’s an open floodgate. I was having a particularly tough day myself (a tough few weeks if I’m being honest) and I’ve been really upset with myself for struggling with how to deal with my daughter’s newfound independence and incredible ability to purposely and endlessly test my limits. I was just admitting to my boyfriend last night at the dinner table that I spanked her bottom (not hard of course) for the first time yesterday because she knowingly did something bad while staring at me dead on in the eyes and disregarded my “no thank you” a dozen times. I thought, maybe a little nudge on the rear will teach her my “no” means “no”. That’s big for me because I do not believe in hitting… even a little spanking. But I didn’t know what to do, so I resorted to it and I wasn’t happy about it.
So I thought, what if that mom was just having a bad day? Well, wait, what if she wasn’t, and she’s just that mom that’s aggressive with her kids and doesn’t think twice about it because it’s her norm? I thought, well if it’s the latter, then I should definitely say a prayer for her. Then my mind rattled off a million reasons why she could have been stressed – What if she doesn’t have a lot of money? What if she’s not being treated well by her husband? What if she doesn’t have a husband and she’s a single mom barely getting by? Either way, she needs a prayer, not judgment. Because let’s be honest, us moms ALL need a prayer. And what we do is REALLY hard, and when we’re having a bad day, we just need a hug from someone with a “you’re doing a really great job”, not judgment and condemnation accompanied by dirty looks.
So I was no longer upset with her and horrified with how she handled her kids. I now felt like maybe she’s another really great mom just having a hard time, and maybe she just need’s a little grace. Instead of my heart being hardened by this situation and closing myself off to mom’s who appear less than loving in public, my heart grew a little bit more compassionate that day for other mom’s out there like me, just trying to do their best, and just trying to get by one day at a time.
Let’s just let other moms parent how they see best, and how they know best. If we feel we can learn from a situation, let’s learn from it, but let’s focus on how WE can become better mothers, not how that particular mom could have or should have parented better in that situation. I know I learned a lot from that situation by reflecting back on how many times I’ve probably lost my patience more than I’d like to admit and how imperfect I can be, especially when my toddler is wearing me down (aren't they so good at doing that?).
I am so far from perfect and I need to remember that.
So maybe the next time I see a mom having a hard time, I'll default to granting her some grace instead of casting a lot of judgment. How about you?
Stephanie + Brittany here! We'll be sharing different topics week to week depending on what life throws at us! Funny moments, frustrating moments, heart to hearts, epiphanies, ideas, thoughts and anything in between.