Recently my little girl and I attended a birthday party for one of her buddies, a sweet boy turning 3. One of the extended family members of the boy, a lady in her 60s whom we had never before met, watched my daughter interacting in some way for a few seconds and commented on her calm and confident demeanor. I of course said “thank you” and proceeded to casually brush off the compliment with “she’s calm now, but you should see her at home…” or some humorous-slash-attempt-at-modesty retort of the sort.
The party was at one of our local parks, and later on my daughter was attempting to climb down a rather complex obstacle, one that is probably a little beyond the grasp of a two-year-old. I calmly walked over to the structure, rather than rushing over to her aid waving my hands and screaming (while simultaneously fighting my natural instincts to protect and control, I might add), and proceeded to assist her down with words, instructing her to “find her feet,” while of course being right there should she really need me to intervene.
That same family member of the birthday boy was watching again, unbeknownst to me. She walked right up to us and said,
“Now I know why your daughter is so confident. It’s because of you and the way you are raising her.”
This time I did not brush away the praise. This time I tried to brush away my tears without this near total stranger seeing. And my friends and family will tell you I am NOT a crier by nature at all – it takes a lot, like the marriage to my best friend or the action of babies springing forth from my body. But I have to tell you, receiving this compliment from an older and wiser mother who witnessed a small piece of who I am as a mom — it was possibly one of the most meaningful compliments I’ve ever received in my life. To receive affirmation for something I work at tirelessly, day in and day out, usually not knowing what the heck I am doing or if I am making the right decisions…it was such a gift.
Which then got me thinking about all my friends who are mothers. Do they receive encouragement regularly for the amazing job they’re doing? Maybe, or maybe not. I’m not saying we signed up for this job called Motherhood in order to get a gold star. And not that any of us NEED or EXPECT praise on a regular basis, but it is wonderful to know every now and then that someone can truly SEE what you’re doing in the lives and hearts of your little ones.
I then realized that I could do much better at praising my fellow mamas. I see glorious moments often; I have amazing friends who are top-notch mothers, but I don’t necessarily take the time to commend them out loud, right then and there, on a job well done. And I really should make that conscious effort.
Receiving that genuine, meaningful compliment at the party that day reminded me how important it is to build up the women in my life in every way I can. Parenting is the hardest and most important job any of us will ever have, and we all need affirmation every once in a while. Who better than from a fellow mom who knows better than most what you’re going through? After all, we’re in this together.
So from now on, when I witness those little moments of great parenting, I don’t want to just smile to myself in admiration and move on. I want to look that mother in the eye, be it a close friend or the woman in the grocery store, and tell her she is great and perhaps more importantly, why I think she is great. If she is anything like me that day at the party, whether she realizes it or not, it’ll be exactly what she needed to hear.
And to the woman whom I probably will not see anytime soon or perhaps ever again, your words have forever touched this mama’s heart. Thank you.