Gratitude isn’t always easy to come by. I try very hard to be a good mom, to be tough but fair, teach my children right from wrong. I sometimes feel like I have to handle everything the world throws at me completely by myself. But, I have been realizing, lately, how so many people have helped me in this job along the way, in ways big and small. When I think about these acts, seemingly random and maybe inconsequential to the people performing them, gratitude actually becomes easy to feel, it begins to flow through me.
When I was pregnant with my first child, I was working in an extended day preschool program. I was tired ALL the time. One of my duties was to supervise half of the “nap time” my students had daily, while another teacher took the other half. I will never forget one particular day when I was barely able to keep it together. I was feeling very ill and I probably could have fallen asleep on my feet if given the chance. After I had my lunch, I went in to take my shift. The teacher who was already in the room took one look at me and said, “Go take a nap. I’ve got this”. I tried to protest, but she said, “Nope, I’m fine. You need it.” I gratefully went out to my car and took that much needed nap while she gave up her lunch / break time for me. It was a little thing, but I still remember it gratefully twenty two years later.
For a while, we left the Midwest and moved to California for my husband’s job. We would fly back a few times a year to visit our family, and our son was a pretty good flyer most of the time. There was one flight that did not go so well. My husband, my then two year old son, and I were sitting in the very last row of the plane. My son started to get very fussy, and we did our best to console him. It was fairly late at night and about a four hour flight. About half way to our destination, my son started to vomit. All over himself and me. For the remainder of the flight. No matter how skillful I may be, there was no way while I was buckled in holding a child on my lap to get the “barf bag” out of the seatback pocket in time, let alone direct a hysterical toddler to use it. My husband did his best to help, but the situation was just overwhelming to both of us. It was disgusting, and I was terrified that people were going to turn on me and my child for ruining their flight. But quite the opposite happened. None of the other passengers made any nasty comments. The flight attendants were like angels, bringing me towels and wet rags to try to clean myself and my child. They brought water for him to sip. They assured me that everything was going to be okay, and spoke in soothing, sympathetic tones every time a new bout of sickness would hit. They took away the used bags I did manage to get him to use quickly, and brought me new ones and stood at the ready to help. When we landed, they had everyone else leave the plane then helped us out, without any rush, saving us some of the embarrassment of everyone staring at our bedraggled, sick covered little family. It was a traumatic experience, but one that was made bearable by the kindness and understanding of the strangers who shared that plane with us that night. In the franticness and panic of those moments, I still feel an immense gratitude to those who were in a position to either help or hurt…and chose to help.
Over the years, I have had a lot of people help me out as a mom. From giving me a hand getting a heavy stroller down stairs when no ramp was available, to giving my kids a ride or a place to hang out when circumstances made us unable to get them in time, to just complimenting my children on their good behavior when we are out and about. But there is one time, one fleeting moment when someone came to my rescue and it meant the world to me.
It was a very rainy Friday night, several years ago. I had decided to be “Happy Fun Mom” and get my children shakes from a local restaurant. I didn’t want my kids to have to get out of the car in the horrible weather, so I had them stay there while I went in to grab the order. This place is a hangout for a lot of the local high school students, especially after football games, which there was that night despite the weather. There were quite a few students in the restaurant and hanging out in their cars chatting, wrapped up in their teenage world. As I headed out toward my car, which was parked a decent distance from the door, both hands laden with drink carriers carrying seven shakes, I wasn’t sure how I was going to get into my car without putting the shakes down on the wet ground and getting soaking wet. If that’s how it had to be, that’s how it had to be, I figured. Just before I got to my van, out of nowhere, one of the high school students who was heading into the restaurant, ran over to me saying, “Here, let me help you”, and he opened the van door for me and held some of the shakes so I could pass the rest into my waiting kids. I thanked him profusely, and he just said “You’re welcome” and ran back to his friends. So while I thank the young man for his kindness, which seemed no big deal to him but meant the world to me, I actually also want to express my gratitude to his mom Mom: who raised her son to be a thoughtful human being. As I share my gratitude here, I hope that someday my own children will pay it forward to another Mom in need.