Saturday, 29 November 2014

Smiling at parents

On the street, I try to smile at other parents.

At the woman who is pushing an extra large, heavy looking pram in the rain. Inside the pram a double-trouble set of twins seem to be sleeping peacefully, at last. The strain on the woman's face shows it's been a long day. I smile at her as I walk past, I try to put into my smile the empathy that says "I know what it's like; still, your children look gorgeous; you are very lucky." Sometimes we all need reminding.

At the man who is struggling with a toddler and a dog, neither of whom seem willing to just walk calmly by his side, each pulling in their own direction. The look in the man's eyes says he hasn't done this too many times before, a part-time dad who maybe spends too much time at the office, aware that he's missing beautiful moments in his child's life. I try to put into my smile an approval that says "You're doing good; it's not easy; I hope you get to spend more time together in years to come". No parent wants to miss their kid's childhood and I have sympathy and admiration for anyone who tries to juggle full time work and parenthood.

At the young girl who is struggling to calm down her crying baby in the supermarket, her downcast eyes and the hunch in her shoulders showing the embarrassment, the inexperience, the frustration. I try to put into my smile the encouragement that says "I know it seems so overwhelming at first, but it will get easier, I promise you." Young parents have many obstacles to overcome, and stigma from the society is just one of them. Us older parents, both in age and in parenting experience, need to offer them support and understanding and an unwavering faith that they can grow and develop into terrific parents who will bring up terrific children.

I try to smile at all of them, any parent who clearly hasn't had a proper night's sleep in ages and whose days are full of nappy changing or preschool puzzles or school home work, any parent who looks like they've not had enough adult company recently, any parent who looks like they could do with a bit more help, bit more time to themselves, anyone who looks like they're trying hard and sometimes failing and then getting up and dusting themselves off and carrying on, just carrying after day. With love.

So if you see me on the street, looking like I'm having a tough day, looking like Ana and Sacha have pushed me just a little too far and demanded just a little too much and I am running on empty, even though my heart is so, so full - smile at me. You never know, your smile might be the thing that saves my day.

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