As summer gets underway and most children are out of school for a while, the stores, playgrounds, libraries, and other public places get more and more crowded with parents and their school-age children. As I was planning my day and thinking about the errands I needed to run, I began to remember when my children were much younger and had to run all of my errands with me. Because it’s been so long since my children were little, it’s easy for me to forget how difficult it can be to grocery shop with young children!
But here’s the real point. Not long ago when I was at the store, I heard a small child having a meltdown. Before I had children of my own, I would have immediately judged the mother of that child. I would have automatically assumed that she must be doing something wrong or that she was too permissive or that she didn’t teach her child to obey or be patient while shopping.
Having been a mother for almost 20 years now has really changed my perspective! And as the mother of a severely autistic child and another with Asperger’s, my perspective has changed even more.
Now when I hear or see a mom dealing with (struggling with) a child who’s having a meltdown or a child who won’t take no for an answer, I remind myself to pray for that mom and that child. I remind myself that, even though that child looks perfectly fine and healthy, he or she may be dealing with autism or Asperger’s. Or that child may simply be having a difficult day for some reason. Or the mom may be having a difficult day—and many children “feed” off the mom’s emotions and reactions without realizing it.
If I catch that mom’s eye, I smile at her. If I have a chance, I say something encouraging or supportive. Even if all I say is, “I remember when my children were small. It can be so hard sometimes!” that mom knows I haven’t judged her. That I understand. That I’ve been through it too and have emerged (mostly) unscathed.
So I’m reminding myself during this season of seeing more mothers and small children out and about to be careful to be understanding. To try not to jump to conclusions. To attempt to give grace whenever possible. To remember those days and how difficult they were and how much it meant to me when another mom smiled and said something supportive. And I’m trying to do the same.
Sometimes we moms are so quick to judge. So this summer I’m making an effort to remember that my “job” as an older mom is to encourage younger moms. To set a good example. To be there for the younger moms in my life when they need help or ideas or understanding.
What about you? Can you think of ways to encourage younger moms with small children who may feel discouraged or overwhelmed? Whether you have a small idea like the one I wrote about here or whether you have a much bigger idea that will touch the lives of many women, I would love to hear from you! Please comment with your thoughts or ideas!