I bribed my boys to go shopping with me yesterday. It was in the middle of day so most of the shoppers were moms with babies and toddlers. Standing in that aisle, watching my guys discuss legos, dart guns and who is stronger, it seemed surreal. Wasn’t I just that new mom with a baby in the shopping cart? I didn’t actually meet a young mom yesterday, but as I followed my boys through the store I couldn’t help but think about when I was her. There is a lot I would have wanted to tell her back then….if I bumped into the old me, it might have gone something like this:
I saw a young mom at the store yesterday. She looked tired. There was a wee baby in a carseat in the shopping basket. A toddler sat in the front seat entertained with random objects from a diaper bag. Hanging onto the edge of the cart was another toddler, this one just a bit bigger than the one sitting. The mom was dancing. Not the kind of dancing you see on tv with heels and a flowing dress. There was no music and you had to really look to see the dance. This mom’s dance consisted of keeping the cart moving to lull the baby to sleep, staying on her toes to keep the toddler distracted to avoid a meltdown and engaging the preschooler in a way that he didn’t decided to touch everything on the shelves. In the middle of her dance, she was checking items off a list and tucking them into any remaining openings in the cart.
Our eyes met. I smiled a knowing smile. Her eyes said, “Please show me grace. Please understand that he missed nap time and I am doing my best.”
I only smiled back and began telling her she was doing a great job. A fantastic job. Though it may seem like she’s barely making it, she’s dancing. I saw her dance. Sure, running shoes replaced her heels and her jeans didn’t twirl, but she was dancing. I told her it might feel like all she does all day long is meet needs and redirect behaviors, but she is doing so much more than that. Every little need she meets, she is building trust in those sweet babies of hers. Those behaviors she is correcting will pay off later. All those little lessons that she wonders if they actually hear and understand – they do. She’ll see that one day. I shared with her how a friend recently told me that I am doing far better than I think I am. With a understanding grin, I told her the same. Between all those fires she is putting out, between all that juggling, between all that often thankless work – she is doing far better than she thinks she is. Though it probably doesn’t feel like it, she is dancing…and her babies see that.
I introduced her to my three boys. I told her I bribed them with a non-coffee drink at Starbucks if they would come shopping with me. I explained how these days it is more fun to go shopping with them than without them and how I am usually asking for their help more than they ask for mine. I told her when we get home they’d unload the groceries and put it all away. I shared with her that I’m not so tired anymore, but the days are still very full in a different way. This time she smiled back with a little hope in her eyes. The baby started fussing, so she needed to get moving again. We said goodbye. As I watched her go, my boys were cutting up with each other, telling jokes I think only elementary aged boys really find funny. There I was left standing in an aisle with three young men – my three young men. My guys.
I thought about those early days of motherhood a lot yesterday. What a gift the passage of time is. I’m thankful for that season when my guys were all so tiny, but I’m thankful they didn’t stay babies. Elementary aged boys are baffling in the most wonderful way. They are funny, active, and oh so sweet to their mom. These days I am tired from breaking up all the wrestling matches instead of being up in the wee hours of the morning with them. Sure, there are still so many challenges; the dance is different now. But…shopping with my boys – it’s pretty fun.
If you are a mom with a shopping cart full of babies and toddlers – one day you just might be bribing them to go shopping with you. Today, you are dancing. It may not feel like it, but you are doing far better than you think you are.