Today I had to go to two different banks to change our address, and then to the post office in order to get our mail redirected during our year abroad. I had to bring the three kids with me. Not exactly fun on a hot, sunny day but it had to be done. The to-do list just couldn’t be put off any longer. The only post office that does this is the main one in the centre of town which has big queues and is full of people with not much room to move around. You know the kind where you need to take a ticket with your number on so that you know when it is your turn. The hot and stuffy kind that you really don’t want to be going any where near during the school holidays when accompanied by small people.
And, on cue, as soon as we got there all three started climbing all over one of the clusters of red cushioned seats and all over each other. The just 3 year old inadvertently kicked a woman twice whilst attempting a forward roll from one side to the other. I went bright red and resorted to my best 'stage whisper' to tell them to get down IMMEDIATELY (that voice you use when you want to show your disapproval but can’t shout because you are in public and the room is otherwise silent).
As an alternative form of amusement, they then turned to “welcoming” people into the building by standing on the pavement outside, right next to the busy road and bus stop. They kept being ushered back in by the man on duty who was clearly terrified they would either get abducted or run over on his watch. He kept looking over at me with a fixed smile and raised eyebrows as though to ask me to keep an eye on them. I kept smiling and shrugging at him in an attempt at miming my response of gratitude/powerlessness to move or do anything differently.
I was actually half pretending that the kids weren’t mine (my new parenting rule is that anything goes as long as they are not fighting), as well as half arguing with the post office lady that my council tax bill definitely WAS as good a proof of address as a utility bill, when an old lady tapped me on my shoulder. “I just wanted to say that your children.....” I held my breath in a mixture of fear and apprehension... “look so happy and healthy. You can see that they are really well looked after.” Gosh! I was bowled over. And in true English style, unable to take a compliment without belittling it somehow - why DO I do that? - I responded that they had actually just been clambering all over the chairs so they weren’t actually that good but she responded “yes, but they took their shoes off first in order to do so. That shows how thoughtful they are.” She continued “I am 83 and I have seen lots of children in my life and yours are some of the sweetest. You can just tell how well looked after they are. It’s lovely to see”. I was speechless.
Later that morning I reflected that sometimes it takes an outsider to show you what is right in front of your nose. I so often focus on the potential discomfort their behaviour might cause others: the excess noise, the unwanted physical contact, the boisterousness, that I forget that others might not see it that way. They just see a bunch of great kids being kids. The overall picture is obvious to anyone on the outside: that I have three, healthy, beautiful children that ARE sweet, confident, thoughtful, intelligent, curious, friendly, affectionate and kind. And that hasn’t happened all by itself. It is thanks in part to me, their very own Bobomama. Which must surely be the definition of a job well done?
So this post is for all those mamas out there that get so caught up in the daily grind that they temporarily forget just how blessed they are: that their kids really are awesome and that that is mostly because they are doing a great job. Sometimes it takes a stranger to remind us of what we know deep down is true. My encounter with the kind old lady made my day. So I’m sharing some of that love and passing it on...
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