It wasn't my best parenting moment. In fact, I was losing patience. I wasn't doing anything out of the ordinary for us; my exchange with Emerson wasn't unlike our conversations that take place all day long. But, as I worked to get her into her carseat in the library parking lot, I was, evidently, being watched.
She may have been a young high school student. She was wearing braces, riding in a vehicle driven by someone else. I didn't realize she was there, but as she waited (for me to move out of her way) to get into her van, she saw, and heard, my interaction with my little girl.
And then, "Is that your daughter? You sound like you're a really good mom."
She didn't have to say that. And, I suspect she has no idea about the weight of her encouraging words.
As often as I hear compliments on my mothering from my parents or my husband (and that is truly meaningful), there's something powerful about the words from a stranger that give such affirmation to the job that I'm doing. Those that know me, know me. I would hope that when they see my love for my daughter, it doesn't come as a big surprise. But, for strangers who know nothing about me, to witness love displayed through my words and actions in the brief time we cross paths, and to know something about me through that experience is uniquely special.
I don't know the girl's story, or what led her to comment. Did I remind her of her loving mom? Or, was she struck by the difference of my behavior compared to the example in her life? I know there are so many loving parents...but is harsh, hateful parenting what she is used to seeing in public? Based on my experiences as I watch other children and their parents at the park or at the store, I worry that that's perhaps the case.
I was caught off guard by her simple comment. I smiled and thanked her as she got into her car, but I wish I would've had my thoughts put together enough to explain that I'm only doing my best to try to show my daughter God's love, or at the very least, let her know how sweet that was of her to say and how much it meant to hear.
I didn't know that that young lady was watching, but I know Emerson is. I think often about the lessons she's learning about motherhood as she watches me. I know those lessons will only become more evident and pronounced in the years ahead. But, this encounter was a reminder that the way I parent is visible to more people than I may realize, and on the days that it seems that I'm not having a significant impact on making the world a better place...well, perhaps maybe I am.