If I were an outsider, I, too, would have thought that my decision that day was downright senseless. I mean, who in their right mind packs up three kids to venture across state lines with the intention to meander throughout strawberry vines just to pick the season’s most delicious offerings? Me. This girl. Yours truly. And it wasn’t until we arrived that it finally sunk in that my decision could have possibly ended in disaster.
As a mom to multiples, I’ve come to learn that chaos tends to happen when our family remains cooped up in the house for hours upon end as opposed to creating a unique adventure, pushing us to leave the safe confines of our home. It was the first week of summer, and the close quarters were already raising the tension levels, so I opted to tackle an excursion on our summer list – picking strawberries at Huber’s. Outside of potential red stains and tantrums due to lack of naps, I figured it would be an experience worth trying. But I kept my expectations low, knowing that while we may have less chaos, it was still inevitable.
In addition to soaking up sunrays, I soaked up moments that day. Many were filled with pure joy … like the ride on the hay wagon to the patch. With my youngest in my lap and the other two interlaced within my arms, a genuine smile found its way on my face as I cherished that moment. But others were filled with less serene moments … like the wait we endured to order their highly “nutritious” lunches.
I was hungry. They were hungry. That’s a bad combination. But add to it a scoop of irritability not only because of the long wait, but because the hotdogs on the menu were no longer an option, and disaster decided it was time to show up. The meltdowns began, and as they did, I did everything possible not to make eye-contact with any bystanders. If I didn’t see them, maybe their judgement wasn’t happening. Right?!
The couple who was waiting behind us in line caught my line of sight and gave a sincere smile that sent a telepathic message to me. It was the subtle message that many moms send to each other … the one that says, indeed, I know where you are, and it will all be okay. We need that at times – I know I do. The validation from those who have “been there, done that” can be worth its weight in gold during those meltdown moments, especially when the bystander smiles. For it is during those times that sometimes they will not just tell you it will be okay, but they will reminisce with you on the meltdowns they had with their kids’ years prior. And they are proof that you will make it through.
But no telepathic message would stop the kids from downright losing it. In addition to having their own tantrums, they then turned and started to irritate each other, creating a whole new set of meltdowns. I did everything to smile – keeping my teeth clenched so I wouldn’t meltdown as well. It was at that moment that I looked up and caught eye sight with another mom waiting in the long, disordered line. She looked familiar, but I couldn’t place it; not until she approached me and reminded me of how our lives were interwoven.
With a friendly grin, she reminded me of our interaction several years prior, when I was completing my family and she was hoping to grow hers. We had met when I was unwillingly parting with my maternity clothes and she was graciously open to welcoming them. While it had been a year since the birth of our youngest, I never knew if I would know what it would feel like for my family to be “complete” where we were no longer open to having more children. But after having a loss, I had come to be grateful for the beautiful littles we had and knew it was time to pass along my items to another.
This woman had a son and was expecting her second child. We connected in the parking lot of a convenience store where we met to deliver the clothes. Our lives were instantly connected that day, and they grew deeper when I got word of her child loss. My heart broke, and if I were to be honest, it had never been fully put back together after our own child loss. And I told her the only words that I could find that gave me peace during my own personal experience.
I offered up friendship, but more than that, hope. I shared with her that after my child loss, I wasn’t sure if we would ever be able to have children. It was only after getting pregnant three months later that I realized how grateful I was for the beautiful soul I was given, for I would never have met him if I had had my first child. The loss of the first brought the beauty of my oldest. A ripple effect happened – three kids later – and I can only understand now that this is the life I am supposed to have. That my loss made me a stronger mom, one who is grateful for every breath, every hand hold, every hug, every moment – even the disastrous ones.
I had forgotten our interaction years prior until she reminded me of what it did for her. Here I was, about to unravel with my own kids that day, as she shared that she will never forget the words of hope I gave her. For it wasn’t long after that she found out she was expecting again, and that day, she had her two beautiful boys in tow embracing the strawberry stains and expected meltdowns as well.
A hug was all we needed to solidify that we understood each other … for where we’ve been and for where we were that day. Our lives forever connected by a few, small interactions … a handful of words.
We each have seemingly small interactions much like this on a daily basis. Maybe it’s with the barista at your local coffee shop or the security guard at work. Maybe it’s with a peer you collaborate with on a project or a stranger you pass on the street. But no interaction is small. Each has purpose. Each has the possibility to leave behind more than meaningless space fillers. Each word we say has power to inspire … and possibly re-inspire at just the right moment.
To the woman I had one day given hope, thank you for reminding me of it. For my moment of possible disaster never happened because of you. Instead, I embraced the red stains and hangry meltdowns and together, myself and each of my kids, agreed that our strawberry picking adventure was one that we would always cherish.