The woman stepping into the elevator likely had no idea how profoundly she would affect my parenting. She was an athletic looking woman, smartly dressed, with stylish graying hair; I pegged her to be somewhere in her 50’s. Her gaze immediately lighted upon my two children and she smiled.
My husband and I were standing sentinel behind two brightly colored umbrella strollers. The kids were snugly wrapped in winter gear for a walk by the beach. We were on a weekend vacation on the coast, our customary getaway since we’d first been married. After children, it was harder to get away alone, so we were experimenting with taking the kids along.
“Are they twins?” The woman inquired.
Our daughter was, in fact, two years older, but she was petite while our son was quite sturdy. At ages two and four, they were the same size and looked enough alike to be mistaken for twins. As the elevator transported us to the hotel lobby, we chatted like friends; kindred spirits belonging to the same sacred club of parenthood.
As we jostled our strollers out of the small space, the woman’s face became intent. Before we could part ways she said, “Don’t let anyone tell you different. The teenage years are wonderful. I raised four of my own, and their teenage years were the most fun I ever had!” Her eyes lit up with the recollection and it was apparent that she was not just feeding us some trite parenting line. This woman actually had enjoyed her teenagers.
It was a pivotal moment in mommyhood for me. You see, I was already dreading the teenage years. My own had been a nightmare of depression, self-harm, and broken relationships. I didn’t think I would survive being a mother to someone like myself, yet I did not believe there was any alternative.
Other parents only confirmed my gloomy forecast with their own dire predictions. “He may be cute now, but just wait ’til he’s a teenager!” “You’ll get your payback in a few years when her hormones kick in!”
It was discouraging, to say the least. But then this one kind stranger changed my thinking with a few well-chosen words of encouragement. I began to hope. I stopped looking to the future with dread and started looking forward to the day when my little peeps could start becoming young adults. Full-blown humans with their own hopes, dreams, talents, and ideas.
Our daughter is now 18, our son 16, and that woman in the elevator was right. These past few years of having teens in our home have been by far the sweetest yet, and I believe that at least partial credit is due to that woman. Hope created a new expectation of the future, changing the way I mothered my kids.
Words carry weight, whether we realize it or not. Predictions of rebellion, coupled with my own experience had been a lead weight in this young mom’s heart. Words of hope, spoken with sincerity from a woman who had survived the mommy trenches, had the power to change that.
I want to be like the elevator lady. I want to speak words that will bring lightness of spirit and hope to the hearts of young parents I come into contact with. So, practically speaking, what does this look like?
For starters, we can keep our labor horror stories to ourselves. Be honest about the difficulties without scaring the bejeebers out of hapless young mothers-to-be.
Encourage the brand new mommies by telling them that they really will sleep through the night again someday. Better yet, we can hold their baby or hire a sitter for them so they can get a long nap.
The mommies of toddlers need to hear sometimes that they will not forever be a human napkin. The constant wiping of noses, bums, and spills is just a season. Most of all, they need to hear that the work they do is valid and important.
The parents of young children should be encouraged to enjoy every phase of childhood. Teen years included.
“Gracious words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body.” (Proverbs 16:24, ESV)
Let us be mindful of the weight of our words. May we consciously choose to speak words of sweetness to our fellow parents.
Your turn: What are the sweetest words of encouragement you have received as a parent?