THANK YOU spelt out on wooden background

Lesson Six: The Kindness of Strangers

Sometimes, people surprise you…in a wonderful way. I want my girls to be the surprising type. I fancy that my girls will grow up spreading happiness to others who are lucky enough to cross their paths, and my next lesson is about compliments.

This lesson was written when I was a rookie Mum of two small girls. When we went out, a short shopping trip could take hours. On this day, it was stressful and timely getting things done – banking, post office, but I had just masterfully negotiated past the toy shop to the parents’ room with a successful move around the playground.

I was hastily giving the girls consecutive nappy changes, getting food out for MJ and trying to get myself set up for a bf for AM.

I think my (then) Miss 2, used to think that my nappy change bag was a magic carpet bag – every snack option you present to her isn’t the one she is after, and the little angry dances that she does on the floor (of anywhere) are getting more fluid and cacophonous.

Anyway, I was managing all of this bedlam when a Mum of three children walked over to say ‘you are doing a really good job.’

My emotional reactions as a Mother are very easily ignited (as I’m sure most others are) and I could have either cried or hugged her on the spot.

I am a firm believer in telling somebody if they look good (girl friends especially), but complimenting a stranger does not come naturally. I can comfortably strike up a conversation with another woman if they are changing their bubba whilst I am, and might even throw in a compliment about their efficiency or cute child.

However, this angelic woman managed to positively spin my day on its axis, and I will resolve to try and change somebody else’s day, in a startling way, with a thoughtful compliment.

I once read somewhere that Mark Twain said that “I can live for two months on a good compliment”. I can rework that by saying that long days by yourself with two little ones can be injected with renewed viguor when an unexpected compliment comes your way.

As I sit in Leichardt, re-reading over this almost five year old post, I find angels still crossing my path. Today, I’ve been so desperate for an allotted one hour of writing that I have paced Norton St for an entire hour, wishing Atty to sleep. I have firmly concluded that the more I desperate I am for him to sleep, the more awake he ‘naturally’ is on that day. I am in such need of  some soul soothing with my manuscript, that I have gone to incredible lengths to get in my planned one hour of writing for today (and the week, or probably fortnight). I had booked this day in for more a month. It was carefully executed, with half a dozen emails on a thread to Miss 4’s preschool booking in extra days around the social calendar of MJ, who had an Art class booked this afternoon.

The day before, (because I am an idiot), I had come up with the genius idea of passing over Miss 4 in that afternoon time slot, so that I would be only left holding the baby. Of course, he would be ready for sleep then, and I could dash to the nearby library, and get my 1000 words in.

Then, two crises emerged – MJ, now a painfully sensitive 7 year old, is desperately tired from our toughest term ever, and refused to leave the house, or accept my rouse of just ‘dropping in’ to say hi to her friends at the class.

I had taken on a visit from Miss 4’s friend for an hour, so the house was total bedlam whilst MJ is threatening to leave home/lock herself in the bathroom/bedroom/etc/not go to art class. During these conversations, whilst I desperately attempted to coax her out, the 4 year olds and Master A begin a game of throwing things to see if they ‘bounced’ down the stairs. This is a new game never before attempted, and I’m too distracted to really get a good look at the objects being ‘tested’.  They are rollocking in laughter, but the house has erupted in mess. Amidst this,  I get a phone call from hubby asking why the preschool has just called him, at 1230pm, to ask where Miss 4 is. Yes, I am an idiot. I had booked Miss 4 in for the day, so that on Art day, I would have my free writing time.

Then my brain didn’t update my diary, in fact, I had ‘Preschool ?’ written in (as this was an extra day I had secured, not her usual). Whatever system I use to manage our children, it had failed me today. So there you go preschool, take a $180 donation from us, but please don’t feel you need to look after or teach my child. No, I’d rather her drive her sister to distraction all day. That’s the way I like my ‘holidays’ to go.

I kept calling my husband, increasingly desperate with each update, and his latest piece of advice, was to just put them in the car and head to art class, they’d be fine. Unfortunately, my physical self prevents me from ever ‘forcing’ the kids to go anywhere. So, my friend came to the rescue and took the two troublesome (but cute) 4 year olds. Right, two down. Now, let the screaming begin. ‘It’s okay’, I said to her. ‘We will just go and see the girls, as we can’t see them any other day in the holidays, they have things on…so let’s just go and say hi.’ (genius move?, no, just wait…)

Well, we arrive in the car park, and the screaming that erupted I haven’t heard since we were in terrible twos. I tried to reach her to calm her, but she was so upset poor darling she didn’t want me to touch her. My next inspired move, call hubby. I’m on the phone when a lady in a painting apron comes over to the window. My first two thoughts are – a)they have realized she’s late and worried about going in to class, so they’ve magically materialized to collect her, b)I’m parked in the wrong spot, or I’m parked badly, and I’m about to get told off.

No, the artist was so concerned about the screaming she could hear from her studio (cue my embarrassment), that she’d come out as she’d imagined something terrible was occurring. I said -‘no, we just don’t want to go to class’ (how stupid am I? why am I there? What kind of a mother am I? – all of these thoughts enter my head. You’ve already wasted money on preschool, why not waste more money on missing art class?).

This beautiful lady, invited us to go in to see her studio, to see a real artist’s workshop, and as she spoke she talked about artists that inspired her. There were landscapes scattered across this gorgeous workspace. I said to MJ, that this lady, looked as though she painted similar subject matters to Uncle David. Well, this lady nearly collapsed on the floor with bewilderment, as apparently Hockney is her absolute favourite, and she is a huge fan. This angelic artist, went to where she could hear a crisis, and just offered her space and her time. This connection, no discussion or judgement on the reasons as to why she was tired/cranky/crying, made MJ suddenly happily skip up to class to see her friends.

So, I update this old post, still singing the praises of guardian angels, especially the beautiful Susan Baird, who works next to Art Est.

To cap it off, once I finally had Master A asleep on Norton St, and was starting to dash off my 1000 words, I had an older couple look over at me with wonder that I was working with a sleeping baby. ‘Wow, what an amazing woman you are with your laptop by your baby (umm….desperate idiot more like, I thought)…….what a beautifl baby. Do you have more?’

When I told them I had three, the lovely lady smiled and said ‘oh dear, what a job, you’ll go to heaven that’s for sure.’ I may be agnostic, but it still made me smile, and was the icing on top of a very hard day.

About the author

Elissa De Heer

I have been studying on and off for years and have postgraduate degrees in English Literature (Masters) and Teaching (Masters), a Diploma in Editing, and a Certificate in English Language Teaching.

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