I want to share a story with you all. This is real life. This actually happened to one of my beautiful sisters recently. IN REAL LIFE. I have been fixated on what she experienced and have had to really process my emotional responses and thoughts. Here’s what happened:
My sister is a mother of an amazing, nearly 2-year-old, little boy. He is nothing but fun and good times. He is also insanely loved by our whole community of friends. So my sister, her little boy, and a couple of said friends were having a pleasant, leisurely hang out at a busy Starbucks. It was the usual scene – the lady at the bar working on her laptop, the guy at the table with his headphones on, the couple in the comfy chairs chatting… the girls (with the small toddler) taking advantage of a common break in their schedules to catch up with each other and enjoy the friendship they share.
My nephew is a pretty chill guy and was happily being with his mom and friends for a couple of hours. This is not unusual for him. He is a good kid who is used to being surrounded by people and is “well socialized”. But at the end of a long visit in a small coffee shop, he was ready to go. As all parents understand, sometimes our kids will let us know when it is time to go. Sometimes they just get tired, sometimes they get loud, sometimes they refuse to move and just flop on the floor until we carry them out, sometimes they run to the door and try to make a break for freedom. This is not unusual young toddler behavior. This is pretty much how the game goes. Again, if you’ve been around kids, you should have a general understanding that this is to be expected.
However, on this day, there was an older couple nearby who apparently have never been around kids before. Apparently, they have managed to go through their several decades of life without ever having to endure the presence of a young toddler in a public space. At least, that is what I try to believe because it is the only thing that makes any sense of what they did next. As they were cleaning up the table getting ready to leave, my nephew had, admittedly, chosen to double-up on his methods and went with the “loud and run” approach. My sister was doing her best to address her boy, correct his behavior and gather her things (like we’ve all done countless times!) when a conversation between the couple and one of our trusty friends caught her attention. Our friend was obviously upset and telling the couple to mind their own and reminding them of the age of the boy whom they had felt deserved their vocalized disapproval: “What is this society coming to when we let our kids run out of control disturbing the peace of these people?“, and (spoken to my sister) “You are RUINING him.”
Lots of words were spoken. Lots of really NOT NICE words. But the ones that mattered, the ones that I have not been able to let go of since I was told of this craziness, are the words my sister spoke to me:
“I am okay, but what if I had been a mom who was already struggling with motherhood?”
I’ve never understood how people feel like they can just say whatever they want to other people. Especially strangers. I just can’t wrap my head around having such a warped sense of entitlement and pride that a person feels they get to completely undermine another person’s value. That’s what those people in Starbucks were doing to my sister and her precious son. They decided that at 1 year old, this little boy was ruined. A blemish on society. And that his mother was a failure.
And that is the biggest load of crap I’ve heard all day. That is such a cruel lie that could easily knock the wind out of even the most confident of mothers. By God’s grace, my sister knows who she is. She knows who Jesus is, and she knows who her son is. She knows that these bitter strangers don’t get to determine anyone’s worth. And yet, she was shaken. Literally, she was shaking as they left the coffee shop that afternoon. I told her that if that had been me, especially if that had been me one year ago, I would’ve crumbled. If someone had taken it upon themselves to let me know what a crappy mom I was while I was in the midst of fighting my hardest to believe otherwise… man! I don’t even know how to explain how devastating that blow might’ve been.
We all have stories like this. We all have been approached by strangers in public who feel like they have some right to share their opinions on what we should be doing differently, or questioning why our baby doesn’t have socks on in the grocery store, or demanding that you get a certain brand of ear drops for your *perfectly healthy* child… sorry. Maybe it’s just me. But, I doubt it!
The point to all of this is simple: let’s be kind. Like seriously. Please? Can we please just be kind?
Can we all just agree that we are doing our best to raise the most respectable children we know how to? And unless you suspect a child is in some form of danger, please just keep your criticism to yourself. You don’t know what that expecting, or new, or seasoned mother is dealing with. You don’t know how your scornful looks with chip away at her spirit. You don’t know the demons she is already fighting… she certainly does not need your sour-puss bad attitude to confirm her greatest fear. Do not be a tool of destruction. Please seek out a way to be a tool of encouragement and a gift of grace.
Here’s an idea: if you see a mom who is struggling in public, instead of gawking in horror, help. Help her, for goodness sake! How much nicer would it have been for that couple to offer to clean the table off for them? Or try to talk to my nephew and distract him from his sleepiness? Or to lift her spirit by acknowledging the way she was managing everything? Or if they had bought her a refill because they could see she might have a rough afternoon with an overly tired toddler coming her way? That would’ve been a much nicer story to tell.
You are loved. Your children are loved. And even when they decide that they just don’t care if you happen to be in public and wish to make their little emotions known the only way they know how… please do not reduce them to inconveniences. Please remember that they need to heard, not silenced. They need to be validated, not pushed to the side. They need to know that you are on their side. And when some jaded stranger decides they need to spew their poison, please make their voice small. Let the voice of the One who chose you to mother your child roar like thunder as He affirms your rightful place. Not because of anything you’ve done, not because of anything you’ve earned, but simply because He chose you for the job. Because in your weakness, in your striving, in your fumbling… He is there strengthening and empowering and equipping you for this marvelous calling.
I love you all…