The Kindness of Strangers

When we are out with our daughter, the famous line “I have always depended on the kindness of strangers” from A Streetcar Named Desire rings in my head. When we are on the receiving end of positive feedback from people we have never met before, it gives us a sense of encouragement that makes us feel like this parenting stuff isn’t so bad and that we are not alone. It truly is the little things that make all the difference.

Anyway, here are some categories of people we are most happy to encounter in our everyday adventures with our kid:

Strangers at a Party. We were at a holiday party when Mia was eight months old. For some reason I was standing across the room while my husband was holding her and I overheard a woman next to me say “Now that’s a cute baby, and so well-behaved!”. I almost kissed this woman I’d never seen before. What she said was so important because she didn’t know I was her mother and it made me feel SO good. At the same party, several people even offered to hold our little bundle for us so we could eat and enjoy a glass of wine. Now that’s a party.

The Grandfather. You know those cutie-pies. They usually have furry white eyebrows, shiny pink noses, and a jolly laugh that warms the heart. Ok, maybe that sounds like Santa Claus, except these guys DO exist. I just love to see the faces of these grown men light up when they see a young child. They usually seem to know exactly how old my daughter is and comment on how she reminds them of their grand-daughter or grand-niece or whoever. Just the other day a grandpa-like man came up to us at a restaurant and commented on what a delightful personality our child was developing. I almost asked him if he had his hearing aide turned on, but hey, take the good compliment when you can.

The Experienced,Yet Kind Mother. She does not offer unsolicited advice, she simply gives hope and comfort to the weary (me and my husband). This is a woman who is usually in line with you at Panera Bread. She says things like, “this is a great age,” or “it gets easier with the second or third” or my favorite, “she looks just like you!” Sometimes I smile and nod, and other times, I ask her questions to see if she can put her money where her mouth is. Her words of wisdom are very comforting, very encouraging, and help me continue on this journey into the unknown.

The Other New Mom. She is easy to spot. You can see the stress, uncertainty, yet dogged determination in her eyes. She is usually found at the grocery store with a little one strapped to her in a Baby Bjorn trying to keep her baby from having a meltdown. These women do not say much, they do not have the time. It is only just a matter of making eye contact accompanied by a nod of the head and an assuring smile that says, “We can handle this shit.”

So to these people I have not met before, I say “Thank you, thank you!” For it is these little, random acts of kindness, sympathy, and commiseration that have made all the difference in the world.

5 thoughts on “The Kindness of Strangers

  1. This is right on, Mary Grace- I kind of cried a little thinking of the kind strangers I’ve encountered.

  2. Me too. I love to say or do kind things for strangers, just to make their day. I saw an article a while back about a woman who spent her 30th birthday (or whatever year, I can’t remember) doing 30 random acts of kindness. I love that! Great post.

  3. I love this post! I agree that comments like this from strangers are just so wonderful and I make sure to make some myself. ♥

  4. I love this! When Max was 11 months old, we took him to a late lunch at Legal Seafood…on Father’s Day. Rookie mistake. He was way too hungry and it wasn’t the right place to take him. There was an older couple sitting a few tables away and they kept looking at us…staring really. I was so self conscious and felt terrible that my fussy baby was ruining their lunch. When we left, I actually went over to them and apologized. They just smiled and said “Oh no honey, we had a wonderful time watching him. You have a lovely family”. Max is almost 5 now and I think about that often. They knew just what to say.

  5. Whenever I am by myself at a store and see a mother or a father trying to wrangle up the kids, I always give a knowing smile and say “I have two at home.” I want them to know that someone does understand and that they are not alone in this parenting journey.

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