When strangers talk about my kids it is usually to judge me or warn me. "He's burning up," for example, was a comment I received when my older son refused to take his hoodie off in 100 degree weather. Other times it would be, "Your kid has a lollipop," like I wasn't aware of the candy my kid eating before school started in the morning. It is rare that I want to hear a comment about my parenting, but when I do, there are a few things I want strangers to tell me about my kids.
Honestly, I'm just trying to do my best while simultaneously attempting to drown the screams of negativity coming from inside my brain that constantly tell me I could be doing way better as a mom. When strangers bring to my attention all the ways I have "failed," even if its just via the evidence of an un-wiped runny nose or some playground folly, it hurts. I feel the pressure to get every parenting decision right on the regular anyway, and certainly without the feeling that I'm being judged and watched by random people at the supermarket, playground, or wherever the hell else I might find myself on a random day.
In other words, it's a rare gift when a stranger tells me something nice, or even just something helpful about my kid. A gift that, at least for me, definitely doesn't go unnoticed. After all, it does take a village, doesn't it? I wish more tell me these kinds of things about my kid, instead of pointing out some perceived flaw that's only going to make me (and maybe even my kid) feel bad:
That They've Dropped Something
One of the most helpful things a stranger could tell me about my kid is that he has dropped his precious comfort object or lovey doll, pacifier, sippy cup, or beloved blankets. Basically, if a stranger has noticed that I've dropped some kind of irreplaceable object that would be impossible to find an identical version of, they are doing me a solid. Honestly, they're probably helping me avoid a horrible public tantrum thrown by my devastated toddler.
That They Look Happy
One of the best things strangers have said about my 3-year-old son, and since he was a little baby, has always been, "That's one happy kid!" This is one of those comments that could make my day go from "whatever" to "wow," because it reminded me that I might just be doing something right. After all, I probably had something to do with that happy smile on his face. Even if I didn't, I'm going to just go ahead and take some credit anyway. You know, as the person who carried him and gave birth to him and all.
That They Just Did Something Nice
Sometimes I'm busy being an "Octopus Mom" with my arms about in every direction (searching for the sunscreen in the diaper bag, wiping one of my kids' noses, dialing the pediatrician about a weird rash) that I miss some things. Once in a while, a stranger might go out of their way to tell me about the nice thing my kid just did, like recently when my older son chased after a nanny to give her the lovey the baby had thrown out of the carriage. It is really, really nice to hear about the good things your kids do when you're not looking, and especially when they didn't even come to tell you about it afterward.
So often I expect any feedback from strangers to be negative that when someone comes up to me to tell me anything about what one of my kids has done, I brace for something bad. It is not because my kids do bad things often enough that this is the norm, but because I think we live in kind of a tattle tale community where people feel they're doing each other a service in alerting one another to a child's bad behavior. Personally, I don't think every nudge deserves a full report. Some of these playground behaviors can be worked out on their own amongst the kids, without our intervention or even knowing about them. Once in a while, however, it feels good to know about the nice gestures our kids are doing that we might otherwise miss.
That They Put Something In Their Mouth That I Didn't See
Once in a while I commit the fatal mom error of not seeing everything my kid has put in his mouth. That's when a stranger can do a real helpful thing by letting me know when that lint ball or coin or animal feces or bug has been snacked on by my precious Little.
In these cases, we moms are super grateful for the comments about what our kids are eating. This is by no means an invitation to extend the comments to other things my kid might be putting in his mouth, like high-sodium snacks, neon-colored cheeses, or lollipops bigger than their head before 9 a.m.
A Comment About Whatever Princess Dress My Son Happens To Be Wearing
My 3-year-old sib is obsessed with princess dresses. The other day, when we went to his friend's house to borrow a Rapunzel dress, he literally gasped and said, "Oh, my!" and put his hands over his mouth when her mom pulled it out of the closet. I am all about strangers commenting about the dress my son is wearing, or what a great movie the movie in which the dress appeared was, or even how great my son looks in said dress. When people say positive things about my boy in a dress it makes me feel good and it makes my son feel good. He loves talking about his favorite Disney movies and his favorite dresses, so if a stranger strikes up a conversation about his dress, he will light up and start jabbering away.
I don't love it when people assume my son is a girl (he currently identifies as a boy) just because he is wearing a dress. I also don't love the faces some people make when they see him in a princess dress. Sure, those expressions technically aren't comments, but if I had to assign words to them they would say something like, "Yeesh. Your boy likes princess dresses? That must be a tough one. Sucks to be you!" It isn't tough, and it doesn't suck at all to be me, in any way. It is awesome and playing dress up is cool no matter what gender you identify with.
That They Look Like They're Having Fun
If a stranger sees my kid having fun and wants to comment on it, by all means, comment away! I love when strangers tell me that my kids look like they're having a grand ol' time. It makes me feel like a great parent for having contributed in some way to my children's happiness, and also affirms my number one goal for basically every day which is: make my kids smile and laugh.
Telling me that my kids look like their having a great time and living their best lives is a very kind and generous thing to say to me. It is judgement free, and doesn't make me second-guess myself in any way. That's the dream, my friends.
That It Must Be So Much Fun To Be My Kids' Mom
For some reason, strangers sometimes feel pain for me about the fact that I do not have a girl and openly wonder when I might be up for trying for one. While this is really empathetic coming from a person who doesn't even know my first name, honestly, WTF? Who is this nobody to assume that I am not happy with the gender of the children, who happen to be two boys, I already have?
Strangers have come up to me to say things like, "Wow, two boys? Bet you're gonna try for a girl!" and I'll be like, "Who are you?" I wish that instead strangers could be like, "Boys look like fun!" or maybe just a simple, "Your kids look like a laugh and a half!" Or, better yet, no comment at all. Sometimes silence is golden.