I don’t have to tell you that parenting is hard work. Especially parenting small children. When you’re toting two small kids around on a sub-zero, snowy day, tasks that would maybe be a minor inconvenience on your own become monumental, exhausting hard work.
Case in point: a trip to a doctor’s office. Before I had children, it was annoying to sit in a waiting room for up to an hour waiting for my name to be called. But there was no work involved. It was just inconvenient. Now with a 3-year-old and a 4-month-old, it might as well be the Olympics of parenting.
The first event? Getting everyone dressed and out the door. What was once complicated with just a preschooler is now nearly impossible. Change the baby’s diaper, dress the baby, feed the baby, feed the 3-year-old, dress the 3-year-old, remind the 3-year-old to go potty, bundle the 3-year-old up, change the baby’s diaper again (of COURSE he chooses this moment to poop). By the time I’ve managed to do all of this, it’s time to feed the baby again, and while I’m sitting in the chair doing that, the 3-year-old takes off his shoes and coat and sometimes even his pants, and the whole process starts over again.
If you manage to make it out the door and to the appointment on time, you now have to face the next event: filling out the stack of paperwork they hand you at the reception desk with no consideration for how you’re going to manage it while keeping the 3-year-old entertained and holding the 4-month-old in your lap. Ten pages later (including a medical history that no one reads and insurance information that they already have on file after copying your insurance card), after juggling the clip board and pen and baby in your hands while stopping every 30 second to remind the 3-year-old not to drag the waiting room chairs across the room and please use your inside voice and don’t block the entry door, and “Don’t go back there, it’s not our turn yet!”, they finally call you back.
Now the main event: a room full of shiny, expensive objects and drawers and cabinets and the trash can full of who knows what germs and those damn rolling stools that every 3-year-old is just dying to use as a skateboard so he can crack open his head on the floor. It was hard enough keeping Judah entertained without getting into anything at the doctor’s office when it was just the two of us. Trying to keep him out of trouble with his brother in my lap is pretty much impossible.
This was my experience yesterday at an appointment for Judah with an ENT to look into a minor allergy-related concern that his pediatrician had at his annual check-up. It wasn’t even a particularly bad day. In fact, Judah was being pretty well behaved all things considered. He sat next to me in the waiting room, and we made silly faces at his brother, and I quizzed him on opposites, and we talked about dinosaurs. After a night of interrupted sleep with the sleep-regressing 4-month-old, what I really wanted was to zone out, stare into space as we waited or even close my eyes and catch a few minutes of rest. But I needed not only to be awake, but to keep Judah entertained and Noah happy and avoid disturbing the waiting room full of child-free adults.
By the time I made it to the check-out desk to schedule a follow-up appointment, we’d been in the office for about two hours. Noah had been awake the whole time, and I could tell it was close to time to feed him again. I was waiting in line not looking forward to bundling the kids back up, schlepping them through the icy, cold parking lot, and buckling them into car seats to finally get them home.
I was next in line when an older woman approached me. She said hello to Judah and peeked at Noah in his car seat. “You have two beautiful boys,” she said. I thanked her.
Then she put her hand on my shoulder and said, “I was in the waiting room with you, and I just wanted to tell you, you are one hell of a good mom. Your boys are lucky.” And she smiled, and walked away.
As parents, we’re used to putting in long hours of exhausting work. We love our kids, and the reward for all of our hard work is watching them grow and thrive. There is no question that they’re worth it. But sometimes it’s nice to hear a kind word from a stranger and know that someone else has noticed how hard you’re working to take care of these tiny people. She took 10 seconds out of her day to stop and say something nice to an exhausted mom of young kids, and it made such a huge impact on my day. I’m so grateful for her kindness.
I’m determined to pay it forward. I want to make someone’s day the way this stranger made mine. I want to pay attention to the other parents around me, and notice what they’re doing right. It’s easy to judge other parents, but wouldn’t it be nice if we spent more time encouraging each other?
I’d like to try.