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Friday, April 20, 2012

What Goes Around

Biggest Brother was reading the seat swiping post on the bus on the way home from school yesterday. We held my phone in our hands, heads together. Meanwhile, Baby Sister, Big Sister and Big Brother sat in the front seats ahead of us chatting and snacking.

When we got off the bus with another woman, she stopped us and asked me, "are ALL these children yours?" I looked around quizzically. I braced for a negative bomb about to be dropped on my little children and me. I hadn't been paying a terrific amount of attention to the youngest three for a bit. I'm pretty sure I gave them all a fierce "what have you done?" look.

When I responded that indeed they were all mine, she went on to comment that she'd watched us on our ride home (Gracious. Also: Horrors!  What were we all doing!?) and that I looked "so young" to have them all. (ahahaha - I hear you laughing all the way from here! I'm laughing right along with you.)

Here was my tip off that she was about to be exceedingly (dramatically even) generous, effusive with praise. I'm no fool and I'm in fact, many days feel more haggard by the moment. I'm fairly sure the only thing keeping early onset menopause at bay is that I'm half heartedly weaning a child too big to be considered a toddler. With the exception of a few weeks, in over 10 years, I have been either or both nursing and pregnant. That begins to take a toll. And just this weekend, I paid dearly for a long beauty shop appointment during which the stylist said she had to "cover all the greys" while I stared for hours at a giant blemish on my chin. I'm not fishing for compliments and am well aware that there are worries way, way more important than my vanity. Even more, hooray my body to have delivered and sustained 4 healthy babies. But just so you are clear, only the truly giving (or even visually impaired) would say I am looking young lately. No one would mistake me for the babysitter.

She was just being really nice. And who doesn't need that?! I'll take it.

Anyhow, once she called me youthful, this kindly woman lingered at the bus stop to compliment the children! Does it get better? Well. I suppose she could have said I reminded her of a brilliant, worldly supermodel who devoted her life to charity and whose family was collectively nominated for sainthood.

Kind words indeed. So I soaked it all in. Soak being the operative word as it was once again beginning to rain. We do live in London. Captive audience, I showed her how tickled I was that both the boys were wearing badges awarded for their efforts at school that day. Now you're thinking that this was an impromptu meeting of 2 nutty woman in the rain. But, no. She was really normal. And I'm relatively so. The kids weren't getting terribly wet. They had umbrellas.

I told her that they are good helpers and friends to each other and delightful little people. They make it easy for me (on our best days). Not perfect, but perfect for the Mister and me. We're a team. That woman is lucky she's still not standing there while I yammer on about my favorite subjects. I could have also gone into all of the Mister's great qualities, too. She was very, very nice to say something so sweet and then endure my response.

As she walked away, and with memories of the less than kind women from our trip still in his head, Biggest Brother said, "See. God sent us a special messenger today."

How right he is. What a nice lesson that was. It is so easy to recall the big and little slights exacted upon us (sometimes even those undoubtedly meted out completely unintentionally). But can't it be easier still to accept a compliment and let it roll around in our heads and hearts for minutes, hours, day, years even? It was a great reminder to me to speak up when seeing someone doing something right. To send praise to others soon and often. To catch people big and small doing well.

It is a bit of a downside to being a homemaker that there are few "performance reviews." And a hazard of my job that I distribute criticism pretty readily, too. But people of all ages appreciate recognition of their efforts. When I was working, I would keep a little "atta boy" file of notes (that was way back when people wrote things on paper) that would boost me when jeers were louder. These days, praise gets stored in my head more often than in a file folder.

In the ebb and flow of our family life, sometimes it seems that we're all rowing in opposite directions. (Never more so than when we gather at the front door to our flat for about 10 or 15 minutes trying to leave while enduring multiple outfit changes, gathering of lots of stuff, nervous breakdowns and temper tantrums. And then the kids start to misbehave.) I know I am about to tempt the Fates saying so, but lately, it has been going pretty swimmingly. That someone noticed and said, "Hooray, you guys!" was much appreciated.

The kindness of a stranger will build up our strength to endure the days that aren't so good. Maybe it is the children graduating to easier stages together, maybe it was a nice, long break or a just a completely errant flukey few days, but this has been a really lovely, easier than most few weeks. I am just so tickled that someone else experienced it with us, too.

Our bus riding friend restored my faith in The Code. It doesn't take but a minute to pass along cheer. You never know just how much good it will do. Without a doubt, it just might make someone's day. She sure made mine.

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