Dear Mama at the Mall,
I saw you today, struggling with your stubborn little pigtailed two year old. I watched as you patiently waited for her to pretend to ride all of the little cars that want to swallow your quarters. You checked your watch a few times–you were probably already late. But, you smiled and you laughed along with her while she excitedly ran from car to car, watching you all the time to make sure you were sharing in the awesome experience.
I was standing nearby when she had finally jumped into each car twice, and you insisted that it was time to leave. She didn’t give in easily. In fact, she continued to move from car to car, and she was fast. You went after her, smiling at me in an apologetic way as you grabbed her between cars.
She had real tears.
Everyone looked your way as she continued to thrash around in your arms. I’m sure you felt the disapproving stares as the mall watched your two year old be two years old.
Yet, you never raised your voice. You never told her to shut up. You never mentioned that she was embarrassing you (and your red face told me she was). You were gentle, even as you physically carried her away. And, the further you got from the cars, the quieter she got, the less stiff. And a few steps later, she was hugging you in a familiar way, getting the comfort she needed from the very one who had taken away the thing that she wanted.
I watched the two of you disappear down the mall while two young women sitting on a bench nearby made comments about how they planned to raise their kids. They traded philosophies about better ways to do what you had just done, all in terms of “Someday, when I have kids…”
I smiled, imagining how quickly their self-assured theories would dissipate on the day they experience their first hair-raising tantrum from an ordinarily adorable toddler. And, I wondered how they could have watched you, sweet mama, and imagine that anything could be better than that gentle determination that said so clearly I love you and I expect you to obey.
Unfortunately, inexperienced gawkers are generally the most critical. But, one day, one day in the not so distant future, maybe they will remember this moment, and one mama lovingly struggling with a determined child, and maybe they will handle things as well as you did.
I want you to know that I saw it. And, I applaud you. You are doing a great job.
A Slightly More Experienced Mama Who Still Needs Lots of Reassurance on Some Days