One Simple Way to Brighten Any Parent's Day
In my life as a parent, I experience so many different emotions. Happiness, frustration, love, exhaustion, joy, irritability, pride and so much more. There are wonderful, happy days, and there are rough, "feel like hiding in my bedroom" days. Being a parent is hard, rewarding work, and very often thankless. Recently, I learned a very important lesson on one incredibly easy way to support other parents and brighten their day. All it takes is a minute of time, and it can truly uplift someone else's attitude for an entire day.
So what is it? Simple. Just notice something good about someone, and pay them a compliment. I know, it seems pretty trivial. How can a few words really make that much of a difference? Let me explain how a stranger uplifted my spirits for a day!
A Big Meltdown
On a sunny Spring day, my two sons and I were walking into the local YMCA. They were acting like normal toddlers; trying to run ahead of me, sit on the bench outside the building, dawdle, you get the picture. When we got to the doors to the building, my older son (almost 3 years old) pushed the button to open the automatic door. My younger son ran inside to the second door and pushed the next button. Which should be OK, right? But for an almost 3 year old, who definitely didn't have enough sleep the night before, this was grounds for a meltdown. A big one. He threw himself down on the floor, refused to get up, started yelling and crying, "but I wanted to push both buttons! I get to push them!" We were right in the doorway, as visitors were trying to come in and out. Meanwhile, my younger son ran inside to look at the pool through the windows in the lobby.
Like I said, today was a good day. I didn't feel frazzled. I knelt beside my emotional son and said "I know you're upset that you didn't get to push both buttons. It's ok to feel upset sometimes. But there are two boys here that like to push buttons. And there are two buttons. One for each of you to push."
Of course, it didn't help. My son kept carrying on, so I calmly picked him up (we needed to go chase his brother!) We walked over to my other son, and retrieved him. I asked my older son to take some deep breaths. Fortunately, he was starting to calm down. I talked to him quietly a little more, and then we checked in and went to the Child Watch area. I was relieved that it didn't escalate, as it sometimes does with toddlers!
The Value of a Compliment
After dropping the boys off, I walked back into the hallway. A woman that I had noticed sitting in the lobby was waiting for me outside the door. She said (to paraphrase) "I noticed you with your boys, and saw how you handled everything. You were so patient! Are you a teacher?" I told her that I wasn't a teacher, but just feeling super patient today! She told me I was a great mom and that I should take the day off (jokingly, of course!) I thanked her and told her how much I appreciated her telling me that. Trust me, there are many days I wish I had more patience, times when I'm frustrated and overwhelmed. I'm not a perfect parent, no matter how much I try. So having a total stranger see me do something well, then take the effort to come talk to me about it, really made me feel good. I know I worked out a little harder on the treadmill that day too, which is always a plus! Her comment stuck with me, and I was reminded to stay patient through some other rough patches later on that day.
Support One Another
I thought about that situation for quite a long time while I was on the treadmill, and even for several days after. It was such a simple, kind act. It's so easy to get tunnel vision and focus on daily priorities and routines. But what if we looked outside our bubble, took a few minutes, and gave a compliment to a someone that could use it? Receiving a compliment about my parenting brightened my day and boosted my mood. I was motivated to pay it forward and compliment someone else. It's easy to find find a whole lot of judgement in the world. Especially on social media (in my experience), one doesn't have to look far to find critical remarks about someone's parenting decisions and styles. But what if there was more positive feedback instead of so much negativity? Small, random acts of kindness, like an unexpected compliment, could go a long way in making the world a little brighter place!