Juicebox Confession: The art of kindness

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Kindness. Is it an outdated notion? Something our somewhat newly digitized world is losing sight of? I suppose the why doesn't matter so much as the how-do-we-make-it-comeback does.

I am a mother of three young girls. They are 7 years, 3 years, and 6 months old. We are still finding a groove to being a family of five. Navigating the magical moments of having two little ones dirty their diapers in perfect unison is not a skill I thought to master before-hand. Things I wish they actually taught in school.

Sometimes, we go through our days with laughter, patience, and a healthy dose of compassion. Other days there are tears. The children's, mine, maybe even my neighbors'. I am a good mom on both of those days, this I know for certain. It is easy to see in the way the baby looks at me first thing in the morning, or as my oldest runs out of school and into my arms. I see it in the way my toddler lovingly demands another snack. Wait, no. I see it in the way she throws a tantrum when I tell her no. Wait, I see it when she ... OK, so I just intuitively know she loves me and that I am doing a good job. Three is a hard age to be.

I am a good mom and no one will convince me otherwise.

Recently, a complete stranger decided that she was going to try to convince me, and a cafe full of people, that I was, in fact, a wretched mother. In her words, I was another "lowly blue-collar raised Vermonter. What a poor, stupid, uneducated little mama."

OK, first, I live in New Hampshire so, Ha! Joke's on her.

Her assessment of me was ascertained simply from her hearing my baby cry for less than two minutes. She didn't look to see the circumstance, she didn't ask if I needed help, she didn't know anything other than she heard a baby cry.

She didn't see me changing my toddler's toxic diaper or the five-year-old that I was watching. She didn't see my baby, happily playing two seconds earlier, drop a toy. She didn't see the baby try to reach it and cry when she couldn't. She didn't see me talking to the baby, trying to calm her and encourage her to reach just a bit further. This person never witnessed me scooping the baby up and smothering her in kisses until she let out the world's best giggle.

Nope. All she heard was a cry and that was enough to judge me.

She walked into the children's area, off from the main cafe, and remarked how unhealthy it was to let a baby cry, especially such a small and clearly scared one. She was loud and had a large presence. I could see that my toddler and our young friend were feeling nervous as the baby started to whimper in my arms. I politely pointed out that she was causing the children some distress because they were all weary of strangers.

That was all the information she needed to insult my mothering, my intelligence, and my assumed upbringing. I barely was able to respond with a simple, "Excuse me?" before she was off, trying to spread her gospel to anyone in the cafe who would listen.

As I watched and listened to her trying so desperately to insult me publicly, a wave of compassion washed over me. No one was listening to her, they barely even looked up from their food/coffee/newspapers. No one agreed with her or even engaged with her. She stomped away, judging me, while no one listened, except me.

Two employees and a manager made sure I was OK. They apologized for the customer's behavior and the manager made it clear that what happened was not acceptable. I assured them we were all OK and that I was sure that what happened wasn't actually about me.

One thing has become clear to me in my seven short years of being a mother. No woman judges another woman that harshly without having some sort of deep seeded hurt inside themselves. Her harshness came from a place of hurt and for that I have compassion for her. I can't imagine using that much energy on something and having no one listen or acknowledge me. Sounds exhausting and disappointing.

Kindness. It is an art form. It takes practice and it needs to be nurtured or it will atrophy.

I am a good mom and the person who decided otherwise is likely also a good person. We all have our really good days and we all have our really bad ones. They can co-exist and both contribute to us being good. One bad day need not define us, instead let what we choose to do with those bad days be what matters.

Michelle is a writer, wife and mother of three small girls. She has a penchant for coffee and rarely turns down cookies. She is the authority on nothing and may just be the most outgoing shy person you will ever meet. Her family is convinced she is a super hero but most days she feels more like the bumbling sidekick. Her writing can be seen online at www.JuicboxConfession.com, parenting blogs throughout the internet, The Brattleboro Reformer, Mothering Through The Darkness- a HerStories anthology, and in crayon on construction paper in her home. All love letters can be sent to JuiceboxConfession@gmail.com

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