Today was a good day. A rare day when I got up at 5am and had two and a half hours to shower and read and clean and make lists before the children got up at 7:30 (noon by our standards). Our wonderful babysitter came for four hours and played with the children, including one on one time with the older one while the younger one napped, while I got lots of work done promoting Brian's new book. The transitions flowed. We had a lovely trip to the post office to send books away. And then, as we were walking back toward home, actually toward the playground to play tennis, I engaged Henry in a conversation about making a choice, mostly because I couldn't decide and wanted him to make the choice for me (it had to do with him and an activity).
I noticed a woman walking alongside us and I was pretty sure she was listening to the conversation. She was about my mother's age I think. After Henry and I were done with our conversation (and he had made the choice, not the one I would have made on my own), the woman said, "I'm sorry for eavesdropping, but I just wanted to say what a lovely conversation that was. And what a wonderful example of parenting...you didn't interrupt him...respect...I wish you were MY mother...you're a F***ing rock star...here's that Mother of the Year Award you know you deserve...." Okay, so I'm paraphrasing, but she did gush and it was more than a few sentences. I laughed (uncomfortably) and said thank you several times, and yes, I might have teared up a bit, and I might be now.
Here's the thing: I don't know who that woman is. I don't know what, if any qualifications she has to say those glorious things to me (though I know she was right - dead on, actually). She doesn't know who I am. On a different day in a different moment, I am 100% sure that she could have just as easily seen a very different scene and heard a very different conversation between Henry and me. I remind myself of this not just with my own public parenting moments, but with those around me. I try hard not to (somewhat unsuccessfully) judge. I go out of my way to say when a parent gives me the slightest opening, "oh, we've been there," or "it's so hard sometimes," or something else to say, "no, no, I'm not judging you, I swear." I try hard (somewhat unsuccessfully) not to care if I think someone is silently judging me.
But the good stuff, LET IT FLOW. That woman made my day and it took a second. It was kind, it was generous. It was judgmental (of me, of experiences she might have been comparing me to). We need to do it more - to each other, to ourselves. All day long. And we need to hear it, be open to it. Thank you, stranger lady.
On second thought, you might not be in to that whole, "praise me and tell I'm awesome all day long and I'll be okay" thing like I am.
Today was a good day even without stranger lady. I didn't "need" her comment today, but I'm going to save it up for a day that I do.
PS - There was a second stranger lady a few minutes later who helped me locate Lucy's lost shoe on the sidewalk. She spotted us walking back covering our tracks with one shoe on the Luce Goose and pointed it out - it was one inch from falling off the sidewalk and into the bus path. Thank you, stranger lady #2.
PPS - yes, I am that ethnocentric that my though right now is, "only in New York." Don't burst my bubble by telling me that people are like that everywhere. They're not. At least to me ;)
PPSS - yes, I know that New York isn't an ethnicity. Is there a similar word that means the same thing for cities? I couldn't find it and I'm too tired to search anymore.