I saw someone reach for another mom’s child. The child resisted—likely because she wasn’t familiar with the adult reaching for her. The adult’s response to the mom was, “That’s why you need to let her spend more time away from you.”
It was a quick assessment of what she thought the “issue” was, and her analysis was not very encouraging or helpful.
When we give parenting advice, if we want to have an impact, we need to invest. We need to get to know people. And we need to remember what it’s like to get quickly-given, unsolicited, and unhelpful advice.
Not long after observing the interaction, I listened to a couple people talk about two young moms at the store with their children. Their children were impatient and inattentive to the moms, even as the moms yelled at them. I didn’t know them. I didn’t know the situation. Their yelling made me uncomfortable, but I didn’t think the kids were in any danger, and I didn’t think stepping in would do anything other than annoy the moms. I didn’t know what their day had involved or what stresses they were under. They didn’t know me, but they certainly were aware of the people behind me glancing and whispering.
I walked by as I moved toward an available self-check station and caught one of the mom’s eyes. She looked exhausted. I softly smiled and quietly said, “Hang in there. Being a mom is hard.”
I don’t know if it helped. I hope it didn’t hurt. I might not have experienced the exact same situation she was in, but I spoke what I knew. Parenting is hard.
We look at others and think we have the solution. Sometimes, we invest in people’s lives and they will listen, and we truly can help. At least we can make a few suggestions. Perhaps more importantly, we can be available. We can listen. We can encourage. We can invest.
Maybe it’s not parenting but another area you observe in someone’s life and think the simple solution you have will do the trick for them. You might think you know the breadth of the situation, and you have the three-step solution. Be patient. Be respectful. Be truthful and loving.
Life is hard. Hang in there.