Have you ever had one of those days where it seems like everything is going wrong and then you catch someone staring at you with a judgmental look on their face and it just makes everything worse? Now flip it around- have you had a bad day and someone says “I’ve been there” and maybe adds something like “It gets better,” or “Do you need some help?” Suddenly you feel a little better? It’s amazing what kind of power a few simple words can have.
If you’re a subscriber, you might remember me referencing a ‘Chili’s incident’ in one of my early emails.
I figured it’s about time I share that story with you.
It was a few months ago, and my daughter was about 18 months old. Most of her life so far had been spent in quarantine and we were so excited about the world opening up again that we planned a little outing as a family. We were going to go to a few stores and do some in-person shopping. Then, dinner at Chili’s. I was looking forward to it all week, but then the day of, things started going wrong.
First, I hadn’t slept well, so I was already tired and sore. Then Em refused to take her nap, so she was cranky. Her lunch ended up all over the floor and before I could clean it up, one of my dogs went to town on it. While I was trying to get my squirmy toddler into a new outfit that wasn’t covered in food, the dog threw up the stolen lunch all over the playroom floor. Regardless of where it happened, it would have been gross, but the playroom was one of the worst places because we have one of those foam puzzle floor mats in there. Have you ever cleaned vomit out of foam? It’s not easy.
By the time we got into the car, my head was pounding. Emily yelled throughout the car ride and continued to be a bit fussy in the store. We ended up rushing our shopping and decided to go to dinner after just the first store. Apparently, everyone had the same idea because Chili’s was packed! We waited for a half hour for our party to be called and then got stuck standing behind a man who was yelling at the poor hostess about how he didn’t want to wait because he could see open tables. Em started getting fussy again, trying to wiggle out of my arms while we waited and yelling in my ear.
I honestly thought about just calling it a loss and going home, but the cabin fever was really started to get to me so I just prayed it would get better. We finally got to our table, dropped her into the high chair, and ordered the largest margaritas on the menu. I was so relieved to be sitting down and excited about the chips and salsa, when it happened. Emily’s face screwed up and she made a grunting noise, and then the smell hit us. Closing my eyes, I let out a sigh and scooped her up just as the waitress was bringing our drinks. I remember thinking, this day just keeps getting worse.
I hoped for an easy cleanup, but that definitely wasn’t the case.
It was probably one of the worst blowouts that she had ever had. I struggled to keep her on the uncomfortable plastic changing table with one hand while trying to get the wipes and a diaper out of my bag. She was screaming, crying and squirming as hard as she could. By the time I got her pants off of her, the mess had leaked out of her diaper and all over her clothes, my sweater, the table and the floor. There was so much and it was everywhere. I was close to tears as I begged her to stay still, apologizing for the cold table and trying to get her cleaned up.
When another woman came into the rest room, I felt my face go red and my cheeks get hot. I was so embarrassed! She looked about my age, maybe a few years older. Her outfit was adorable, her hair and makeup were perfect. And there I was with tears in my eyes, a screaming child, and baby poop all over both of us. I was ashamed of my appearance and jealous of this woman who at first glance seemed to have it all together. But then she did something that completely changed how I was feeling.
She looked at me with a sincere smile and said, “I’ve been there.” Then she grabbed several paper towels and brought them over for me. After handing them to me, she bent down and grabbed the packet of baby wipes that had fallen on the floor and gave those to me too. After smiling at Em, she told her to take it easy on her mama and then told me I was doing great. She said that she’d gone through a similar situation with her daughter more than once and promised me that it would get easier before asking if I needed any help. I didn’t know how to tell her that she’d already helped so much.
That simple phrase- “I’ve been there”- took a weight off of my shoulders.
I was able to let go of the embarrassment and push the bad-mom-feelings away. I thanked her, told her I was okay, and managed to get Emily into a new diaper and back into her little shoes. She stood next to me as I pulled my gross sweater off. I balled up her clothes, wrapped them in my sweater and washed up the table, floor and my hands all while Emily hugged my leg. Once I was clean, I pulled her into a tight hug and told her how much I loved her and that I was sorry I’d gotten upset. I scooped her up and she wrapped her little arms around my neck and I remembered how lucky I was to get to be her mom.
After leaving the bathroom, I passed the kind woman’s table on my way back to my husband. She was sitting with a little girl who looked to be about eight or nine, coloring quietly with a big smile. The woman nodded at me and I nodded back gratefully, hoping she understood just how much she’d done for me.
This incident was a wonderful little lesson for me in the power of words.
That woman very easily could have come into the bathroom and made a mean comment, or looked at me and Emily struggling and just turned around and walked out. She could have judged me or made me feel like a bad mom. Instead, she made me feel like I wasn’t alone and reminded me that this was just a few bad moments in a lifetime of blessings.
I try to remember now when I see someone struggling or having a hard time to offer that same sort of support, because you really never know what kind of day that person has had. It won’t be too much work for me to say something kind, and yet I could completely change someone’s mood!
There are two phrases I’ve seen a lot lately-
In a world where you can be anything, be kind.
You never know what someone else is going through- be kind always.
I really try to embrace those, and be a kind person. I like to hope that I can be that little bit of light for someone the way this complete stranger was to me.
And so I have a challenge for you:
Be kind. Offer a kind word when you can. And it can be totally simple. Do you think that woman’s outfit is amazing? Tell her! Think that craft that someone made is cool? Tell them! If you see someone struggling or obviously having a hard time, offer some encouragement or support. Maybe you see someone stressing about something you can relate to- tell them: I’ve been there! You really never know when a few simple words from you can completely change someone’s entire mood! We have enough judgement and negativity in the world already- let’s try to make it a little lighter and brighter. That’s my request of you.
Say something nice today.
But you know what, I’m actually going to take it a step further. On top of saying something nice to someone else today, I want you to say something nice to yourself too. Look in the mirror or even just take a moment with your eyes closed, and say something positive about yourself. Pick one thing that you love about yourself or that you’re proud of yourself for and focus on it.
Remind yourself of how wonderful you are.
That you’re a badass babe who has accomplished great things and will continue to do so. Remind yourself that you deserve good things and that you deserve to be happy and you will have a life that you love. Because words are powerful even when you’re just saying them to yourself.
Maybe you’re having a hard time right now. Maybe you’re full of self doubt or you’re frustrated because you can’t understand something or you’re feeling neglected or lost or confused. If that’s the case, I want to tell you:
I’ve been there.
and it does get better.