When Encouragement Comes From A Stranger

(Written last Thursday.)

As I am typing this, my kids are sitting on the couch across the room, watching Rio.  I don't typically let them watch a full-length movie in the middle of the week, but this was been a particularly long week, and a particularly long day near the end of a particularly long week.  I decided I'm allowed.

Though the day was busy and a bit exhausting, it was good too.  We went to our mom group this morning, and as I picked up the kids from their classes they handed me their crafts.  "This is for you, Mom", they always say, and I grin and say I love it, even if it's just a paper with stickers on it.  It's sweet that they want to give me presents (even if I sometimes suspect it's just to get me to hold said crafts and papers for them).

We had a few errands to run, and I felt like we were a bit of a mess, as I usually do.  When I take all the kids into a store - especially a store with no carts - I feel like it's a constant stream of "Come here {insert child's name}", "Don't touch that {insert child's name}", and "Don't lay on the floor {insert child's name}".  People ask me how I do it with four (soon five) kids, and the truth is that when we are out in public I try my best to keep my kids close by me and not breaking anything, and I feel like we are a mini circus.  A happy, adorably cute circus, but a circus nonetheless.

Sometimes I even feel a little sheepish, like we are a bad advertisement for a big family.  But today the cashiers smiled at me and told me how adorable my kids were, even when I was too busy wrangling them to properly respond.  I kick myself for that now.  I've gotten used to not-quite-positive-not-quite-negative comments from strangers, to which I usually give a closed-lipped, nondescript smile, but the comments today were sweet and encouraging and deserved a big grin.

I was getting the kids packed back into the car when a lady came up to me.  

"I just wanted to say, you are amazing.  I have trouble with two kids, and you have four!" she said with a smile.  I laughed and said "Well, thank you! I feel like we're always a bit of a mess."  And she said, "No, you are doing an amazing job.  Your kids were so well behaved."

I thanked her again, and I guess I am thanking her a third time here.  I doubt she even realizes that her words will be remembered, but they were what I needed today.  Sometimes an encouragement from a stranger can make you see yourself in a better light, and sometimes in the middle of the minutia of motherhood you need that.  I looked at my kids and realized they really were quite well-behaved, despite my constant stream of directions that felt so chaotic to me.  They listened well, overall.  They walked in a row, like little ducklings, to the door.  They climbed in the car and got so excited over the clementines I gave them for a snack, patiently waiting while I peeled them.  

They really are very cute, and very good kids.

During a week when I am feeling overwhelmed and when I feel like I'm failing at this whole motherhood thing, I needed that reminder to step outside myself for a minute and appreciate my kids for the little people they are, the people they are becoming, and to comprehend the role I am playing in that. To look at the day, and my whole mothering journey, with fresh eyes.

I am thankful that God let that lady cross my path today, and I hope immortalizing that brief little encounter here will help me remember to refresh my eyes on rough days in the future.

I also want to remember it here, because maybe it will remind me to offer encouragement to a stranger myself sometime.  If I notice someone doing something well, or even just trying their best, why not offer a word of encouragement?  The gift of fresh eyes can so often be given this way, and it is worth a lot.

Has a stranger ever encouraged you when you needed it?



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1 comment

  1. Oh I just love this. What a sweet little blessing in your day.
    We have had people come to us a few times and tell us how well behaved our children are when we're out in public, and that always stops me in my tracks and makes me really appreciate my children, and the person who said it. Every time it's happened I have felt like it is the best possible compliment I could receive!

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