Encouraging Moms and Passing it On

encouraging moms

What to do with a kid’s tantrum tears

I wheeled my cart to the front of the store and waited for the mom in front of me to finish putting her items on the conveyer belt.  Seated in the cart was a toddler, probably two or three years of age. She was a blond pixie, and cute as a button.  When she asked to get down her mother obliged.

Pixie’s cuteness left when she ran to the shelves next to the counter and begged for the small bag of chips. Her mom told her no. She asked for pretzels. The answer was no. Miss Pixie begged for gum, for candy, for anything else she could find and she touched item after item, begging. The answer was always no.

Finally, Mom told her to come back to the cart, which she did.

Now the tears came. Mammoth tears. Pouring down your face tears. Woe-is-me tears. Won’t-you-feel-sorry-for-me?! tears. Pouting tears. Buckets of crocodile tears.

Along with the tears, there was a lot of noise. Loud, moanful wails. Sobbing wails. Gasping for air wailing.

encouraging moms

One by one, customers and a clerk came by and asked the little gal what was wrong.  From their actions, one would have thought the child was in danger or in pain. Their glares toward the mom told me what they were thinking. Definitely, there was one side to this story, and it was not the mother’s side! How could a mother be so uncaring? How could she continue loading groceries into her cart while her child sat there crying?!

Because it was the right thing to do, that’s why.

Before the tears had ever begun, little Pixie and I had exchanged smiles. I’d said hello and she had smiled back at me.

When little miss Pixie turned and looked at me with those mournful eyes after the crying episode, I gave her another smile.

Seizing an opportunity, I spoke loudly enough for mom to hear.

“You have a goooood mommy. You are so lucky to have a mommy who cares about you. I saw that you begged and begged, and your mommy kept telling you “no”. I’m so glad your mommy loves you enough to keep saying “no” when she has told you “no” once. She didn’t change her mind because you cried and pouted. She’s a good mommy, and you really don’t need to cry.”

Her tears stopped at once. Eyes wide, she seemed to contemplate what I said. I saw a hint of a smile in her eyes. Uh huh. This kid knew what she was doing all the time. Her tears were gone. I find it interesting that when people offered her sympathy, her tears fell faster and her crying was louder. Perhaps, instead of encouraging kids to misbehave by giving positive reinforcement, we should try encouraging moms to “stick to their guns”!

When it was my turn at the counter, I turned my attention to the pile in my cart and started putting my groceries onto the belt. I’d forgotten about the conversation because all was quiet in the grocery cart now.

I almost missed it, but just as mom turned her cart to wheel the groceries and cart outside, she caught my eye.

There was a faint glimmer in her eyes as she mouthed the words, “Thank you.”

Certainly. Moms need all the applause they can get when they are doing it right.

encouraging moms

Applaud the moms who are doing it right.

I remember those days.

Folks critiqued our parenting when they didn’t even know our names. There was the senior citizen who told me that she couldn’t believe I didn’t care if my son electrocuted himself. We were in the doctor’s waiting room and he had crawled underneath the fish tank to see how it worked. She seemed to know more about it than I did.

Another day, a clerk in the store told me I just needed to whip my kid. We’d traveled for six hours with a toddler who had spiked a fever and was sick the entire trip. The young whipper-snapper was obviously too young to have any kids of her own, but she knew exactly what should happen. Somehow she missed a runny nose, pulling at ears, and feverish face of the kid whose head was on my shoulder. (You see how I remember this over a quarter-century later?!)

I especially remember the time an older woman gave me the encouragement I needed. I think she made a practice of encouraging moms, especially when they needed it. You can read about that here.

encouraging moms

What Fun it is to Pass it on!

On this day in our Food Lion, I paid it forward. Instead of nailing the mom (or the kid), I chose to affirm what was right and good. Encouraging moms is a wonderful way to empower them in their parenting.

It’s so easy to sit back and make a judgment call about a behavior when we don’t know the whole story. It is so much better to find things for which we can applaud and then do it heartily.

Encouraging moms is more important than critiquing them (unless they ask). How much better to look for the good and begin paying it forward? It will make this world a better place. Plus, it’s guaranteed to give our kids better moms!

encouraging moms

The Secret Giver

Photo credit: Rachel N. Miller

 

Those cool spring evenings and cooler nights are some of my fondest memories of growing up, especially on May Day eve.  That was when we went to the woods and gathered buckets and tubs of wildflowers from the river bank, the shaded woodlands, and the swampy marshes along the winding dirt road.

photo credit: Karen Tice

I won’t be there to help, but this year marks the 49th year of this May Basket tradition.

To think: it started because a 5th and 6th-grade teacher told her class about the European tradition of placing baskets of flowers on the doors of folks, ringing the doorbell, and running away to hide.

photo credit: Karen Tice

What I like about the European tradition is that this time,  the children are the givers while the adults receive.

This time, the children focus on somebody else instead of themselves.  How cool is that?!

Nobody has to promise to be good or nice; the baskets are gifts of love from neighborhood children.  Instead of kids hoarding for themselves, they are doing something for other folks and expecting nothing (imagine that!) in return.

One of the best things about giving is when you can give without the recipient finding out who gave.   This concept is even applauded in the Bible, for Jesus said that when we are giving to those in need, our left hand ought to not know what the right hand is doing.

He was saying, “Nobody needs to know.”

photo credit: Karen Tice

That’s the fun part about giving – when nobody knows.

The fact that some people don’t even know who started our tradition is special.

That was our intent, that first year: no one would ever know.

We really tried to keep it a secret.  We had every intention of giving and not having the recipients ever figure out who it was who gave.  That evening, we planned (mere 5th and 6th graders!) that we would do this every year.

We never dreamed the tradition would continue all these years.

After dark, we left our baskets of flowers at the school we attended and rode away silently into the night.  I don’t know why we thought no one would find out, because, in our close-knit community, someone was sure to figure it out.  They did. They certainly did.

photo credit: Karen tice

Then it didn’t matter anymore.  It was still fun to gather and deliver the baskets without the recipients finding out we were there.  We succeeded in delivering hundreds of baskets over the years without our receivers knowing we had come.  Barking farm dogs loved the stale cookies we fed them to keep them quiet while another sister ran to the house and stealthily placed a basket of flowers on the door handle.

Every year, on May Day, I remember those cool spring evenings and cooler nights when we delivered some fifty-plus baskets of wildflowers to relatives, neighbors, and friends.  I remember going on walks down River Road to check the flowers a few weeks earlier, to see what was blooming and what we’d put into the baskets this year.

Bluebells. Photo credit: Karen Tice

I remember the exhilaration of creeping alongside farmhouses and placing the baskets on the doorknobs.  I remember the satisfaction of coming  home at midnight, knowing that daybreak would bring smiles to relatives and friends as they opened their doors to welcome the morning sunshine and spring.

Jack-in-the-Pulpit

I’ve told this story so many times but I never forget, in the telling, the exhilaration of the fun and the satisfaction of blessing well-given.

That is the part that I love the best:  giving just to give, and not expecting anything in return.

Giving unseen with no one being able to thank you because they really don’t know who to thank.

Giving anonymously so there is no need to feel beholden to the giver.

That is true giving.

Purple Trillium

I’ve had a few of those times when I’ve given to folks in need.  There’s no sense of loyalty or expecting a payback. What fun it is to hear someone tell others about a gift they received and wonder  who gave it – when you’re the one who gave.

There’s a story about the deacon’s wife who spent a year wondering who was bringing her pies – and never was able to figure it out.  I love this story because the giver gave not only a pie but love and healing as well.

In our May Day tradition, we initially delivered flowers to our uncles and aunts and school teachers.  Later, we expanded to the families in our church.  Eventually, we were delivering flowers to nursing home residents and folks we hardly knew, up to 100 baskets one year.

Throughout the years, the givers have changed.  Neighbor children accompanied us in our treks to the woods; later we obtained help from our youth group.  Still today, there are folks who volunteer to help, and thankfully, the tradition continues.

Ready to be delivered! Photo credit: Rachel N. Miller

We did this because it was challenging and fun. We did this because we saw the joy that was given when older folks, especially, experienced the joy of the woodlands.  Once young and spry themselves, these same folks used to wander in the meadows and woods, enjoying nature and the beauty of creation.  Now the beauty was brought to them.

Photo credit: Karen Tice

You might not have wildflowers where you live, but you can still gather bouquets of thoughtfulness and kindness, and share it with those in your neighborhood.  

In keeping with the May Day tradition, help your children discover the wonder, thrill, and beauty of giving to someone and expecting  nothing in return.

Find within your heart what it means and how it feels to know that it is much more blessed to give than it is to receive.

When was the last time you did something for someone else as an act of kindness – knowing you will receive nothing in return, for the person to whom you have given doesn’t even know who to thank?

That, my friends, is the best way to give.

 

To learn more about this annual tradition, the teacher who first told the story, and my sisters, you can read here