Despite my better judgment, I recently took my daughter to an unnamed fast food restaurant to play (I know, I know!) This particular day there were several other children playing. The children ranged in age from toddlers to school-age; some parents were engaged in their child’s play, some were not. In particular, there was a young mother there with a toddler and an infant. Right away I could tell she was holding on by a thread! She was attentive to her children but I could tell she was stressed out and tired. I guessed she was a stay at home mom and had had a long day.
Her toddler began playing with another child in the play area that was slightly older. The two playmates took off up the play tower and before the long the inevitable scream and then crying began. The older child rushed backed down the tower crying and yelling, “He hit me. He hit me.” Upon hearing her child cry, the mother of the slightly older child rushed to his side. By this time the toddler had made his way back down the tower and was crying as well. It was like a showdown at the O.K. Corral: the toddler and his mom in one corner and the victim and his mother in the other corner.
Fortunately, or maybe unfortunately, I was merely a spectator. The mother of the toddler began to apologize but before she could complete her mea culpa, the other mother grabbed her child and left the play area, rudely ignoring the other mother’s attempt at an apology. The young mother looked at me and said with tears in her eyes, “It’s been a really long day.” She gathered her two young children and left. My heart broke for her. I didn’t know her but I knew that on any given day, I was her.
When I pick up my daughter from school each day I ask her, “Were you kind today?” As parents, too often we forget to be kind to each other. The mother whose child was hit certainly had a right to be upset that her child was hit. But she also had an opportunity to model kindness for her child and to a young, struggling mother. Just as our children are on a journey, as parents, we are also on a journey. Some of us feel confident and in command of our role, while others are uncertain and in need of support. The next time you see a parent struggling, instead of judging them or simply being glad it isn’t you, try being kind. No one has parenting all figured out and if they look like they do – it’s a mirage!