The note written in scribbled Sharpie said “For a Mom with Kids.” I stared in surprise at the card the barista handed over to me — a sweet soul had downed ten coffee drinks and earned a free one. Instead of ordering a large (that’s what I would have done) this coffee lover decided to donate one to a mom in need. The barista, sizing up my frazzled state, decided I fit the bill. I was a literal hot mess that morning. My children and I spent over an hour at the playground. Then I pushed my three-year-old and nine-month-old in our giant double stroller several blocks to our favorite coffee shop for lunch (I didn’t remember it being uphill). All the while I was thinking “Why is it 90 degrees in September?”
The small act of kindness touched my heart. The more I thought about that good deed, the more I remembered the good deeds of other strangers. This wasn’t the first time I’d been on the receiving end.
Having a baby in tow welcomes smiles or stares from strangers (depending on how the day is going). It also opens a door for conversation. I’ve had countless chats at the grocery store with grandparents, especially when shopping on a weekday morning. Only one or two have offered unsolicited and unwelcome advice. More often they tell me about their grandchildren or reminisce about their own (now grown) children at that age. The pleasant exchange is brief, but it always leaves me with a warm feeling. It also reminds me that these days of babyhood may feel long, but the time goes fast.
Then there is the countless number of strangers who have held open a door for me. When you’re carrying an infant car seat on one arm, holding your three-year-old’s hand with the other, and are weighed down by a bulging backpack, there’s no question they see you coming. But those strangers don’t have to stop (and some wait a reeeallllly long time while my daughter inspects an ant on the ground). Just last week an elderly man shuffling his way inside insisted on holding the door for me. He picked up speed to beat me to the door handle. Hopefully, my smile and simple “thank you” conveyed the gratitude I truly felt. Before you assume door-holding is a generational thing, I’ve had several boys and teens hold doors too. (though often under the watchful eyes of their mothers). If you’re pushing a stroller, there’s the same understanding and kindness. I wrote about that solidarity among parents in one of my earlier Knoxville Moms Blog posts.
The kindness continues.
Back in July my family and I were eating at a restaurant on Market Square. I took our entire troop to the bathroom, which can be especially exhausting with a three-year-old rebelling against potty training and a baby desperately in need of a new diaper. Out of breath, I finally got my toddler into the stall. While she protested loudly from her potty perch, I quickly pulled open the changing table and stopped in my tracks. There was a post-it note that read “Thank you for loving your baby so well. Keep up the good work!”
In that moment, those were the exact words I didn’t know I needed to hear. A total stranger in two short sentences understood me and lifted me up.
This isn’t the entire catalogue of all the small kindnesses I’ve received — this just scratches the surface. Kindness may seem in short supply these days, but my “Mom with Kids” experiences suggest we shouldn’t lose hope in humankind. I hope to pay it forward in my own deeds and actions; even better, I hope to instill kindness and gratitude in my children. For each kindness we’ve received, I try to make my kids take note. As for the donor of my free cup of fancy coffee, I send a big thank you out into the universe.