Pre-Planned Encouragement

store toddler tantrum

My new go-to phrase when meeting someone with both kids in tow is “We’re comin in hot.”

I often use it as a warning, like, “Yes, we’re almost to your house but both kids are screaming bloody murder and I have to pee immediately upon entering your home.”

A few weeks ago, we “came in hot” to Bath & Body Works. It dawned on me that it was the last day of preschool and I hadn’t done anything for Beckett’s teachers. Despite my better judgment, I unloaded both kids into a store with thousands upon thousands of brightly colored toddler magnets. We were only in the store for about 5 minutes, but during that time we ruined approximately 8 displays, rearranged 49 hand soap bottles, threw 3 tantrums, and left piles of projectile baby vomit throughout the store.

So, naturally, when I saw a stranger coming towards me, I braced myself.

Parents can be so mean to each other, can’t they?

Whether it is through words or simply a disapproving glance, there is little to no mercy when it comes to parenting. Especially when our kids are acting like…well, kids…in public.

I considered my retort as this particular lady got closer. “Yes, they are being ridiculous. Yes, I should have planned better so I didn’t have to bring them. Yes, yes, yes. Judge away, ma’am. Judge away.”

But the strangest thing happened. Instead of making snarky comments or offering unsolicited advice, she asked if I wanted a 20% off coupon.

“I have an extra, if you’re interested. Have a great day!”

That’s all she said. Then she walked away.

And I’ve got to tell you – it turned my whole morning around.

In the event of a freak out…

I posted the other day on finding ways to think outside of ourselves (a surprisingly hard feat when dealing with tiny humans that have gigantic demands), and the lady at Bath & Body Works proved just how simple that can be.

Nothing is freak-out inducing quite like shopping with small kids. They scream for _____ (Fruit Roll-Ups, Cheetos, the toy aisle), see how frazzled it makes you, scream louder hoping to break you, repeat.

It’s a very dark time of life that is, sometimes, for some reason or another, completely unavoidable.

Being that mom with the ear-piercing child is horrifying. And seeing it happen to another mom? Physically painful.

So…what if this is one of those times to think of others? A time to turn our own experiences into action.

What if we could somehow brighten that other mom’s day?

What if – instead of watching her struggle and shrink in shame as the whole store looks on – we reminded her that she’s not alone? That she can do this. That she is bigger and stronger than those little angels (fartheads).

Maybe it’s handing her a coupon. Maybe it’s saying, “You’re doing great.” (Or possibly even, “You. Will. Survive.”) Maybe it’s finding something to compliment about her kids. Maybe it’s just a sympathetic smile.

Maybe it’s all of the above.

…let’s have a plan.

I spend 90% of my life at Target, as do a lot of moms I know. More importantly, Target has a Starbucks.

So here’s my new personal plan: Starbucks gift cards. $5 cards, kept in my wallet for such a sighting.

It’s an inexpensive mood-changer.

“Hey, momma. Been there. Still there about 6 out of 7 days of the week. One time someone did this for me during a ‘moment’ with my kids, so I want to pass it along. Have a coffee, on me.”

A simple encouragement. (And a chance for free caffeine, a universal love language.)

But not just for moms.

I talk a lot about families with small children, because…that’s my life.

For me, spotting moms with the twitchy look in their eye – the look that says, “I am 2 seconds from boarding a plane to the Carribean and leaving these kids with the first nice person I see.” – is second-nature. I know how they feel, because it’s how I feel sometimes. I know what might encourage them.

But whether you’re a mom of young kids, a middle-aged adult dealing with parents in declining health, or an 8th grader struggling with identity…we’re all in this crazy life together.

Find ways to encourage the people around you. The people in your stage of life. You know what speaks to their heart because it’s the same that speaks to yours. So start speakin’. (Or giving Starbucks cards. Pretty sure those speak directly to any and everyone’s hearts/stomachs/caffeine dependencies.)

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