Friday, September 30, 2011

Random acts of mothers and strangers

Have you ever reached the end of a day, looked back, and thought, "OMG, everything I did, all day long, was so random, I have no idea what I actually accomplished?" 

Ummm, "Tripped up," you say, "that's MOTHERHOOD, didn't you get the memo?"

When I stayed home full-time with the triplets for their first 15 months, I really did sense that randomness every day. It was only as I was able to pull away here and there from the constant needs of the baby x3 world, that I could begin to see those random acts adding up to something more, something that could be considered vital, as vital as helping babies to someday become people who can help change the world. (That may be the longest run-on sentence I've ever written in my life, but that's also how those days felt too).

A recent errand Saturday brought up another view of random. It began with a shopping excursion that may seem random, but is actually intentional. It's hard to get our toddlers out and into the world often, especially when we take all 3, but it's important for their development to see new surroundings and have new experiences. It's also important for us to give prime attention to one at a time. So every Saturday I try to take one triplet with me on what we call a "singleton outing." It usually involves the farmer's market, grocery store or other errand and may include lunch out with mom. Saturday's was Sunshine's turn.

A simple trip to the mall to return an item, lunch, and grocery shopping was on the docket. It started out okay in the van. Then a (lunchtime is nearing) start time, toddler slightly battling a cold, and the long ride through a construction zone culminated in some edgy behavior at the second waiting line. As we waited, I did what every mother would when a temper tantrum feels 10 seconds away and she’s just 1 person away from being helped. Talk, distract, hold, smile, sing, tickle, and finally ignore the fists being pounded on the floor in frustration. Two women interacted with me at that time (besides the clerk). The one was clearly full of disdain for a mother who couldn’t control her nearly 3-year-old at noon in a department store waiting line. The other smiled and said, “I have days like that sometimes.” I mentioned this was one of our triplets and was a special outing just her and I, but she seemed a little “off her game today.” It seemed to impress the kinder lady, while solidifying my inability to parent for the other. (Keep in mind, there was never an out and out tantrum, just some frustration from a toddler who would have been completely happy to hold my hand and walk around the store or to be pushed in a moving stroller – JUST DON’T MAKE HER WAIT IN LINE!) We managed to finish the errand in relative short order without irritating too many people and then it was off to Red Robin for lunch.

Sunshine and I truly enjoyed each other at lunch. Get a little food in a hungry toddler's belly and it's amazing how quickly edgy behavior can disappear. We practiced talking, we looked at colors, she ate a very soupy macaroni & cheese meal with a big girl spoon and loved it all - especially the pink balloon at the end. I went to pay for our meal and here's really where random comes in. 

"Actually," the server said, "that's all taken care of."

"What?" I said.

"You don't have to pay, that was taken care of for you," she replied.

"By who? I don't know anyone here," as I looked around, confused. (I don't live in a huge city or anything, but my metro area is too big to always meet a neighbor every time you go out).

"It's a secret," she answered. "Don't question it, just enjoy it, and have a great day."

One of my dear friends, D, who is the most generous woman I know and also has much to share, often feels impressed by God to buy a random stranger's lunch, or something like that. I've seen it happen and it's beautiful, but D was nowhere near that restaurant - I know that. I did think I may have glimpsed that kind lady from the check-out line out of the corner of my eye, but really I'm not sure. I have no idea who bought our lunch that Saturday; I can tell you the gift sure put a smile on my face.

Have you ever been the giver or the recipient of a random act of kindness? Have you ever felt like the random acts of motherhood weigh you down so much that you forget the bigger picture and what you're doing with all the random (cleaning kitchen floor, again, changing dirty diaper that was clean just 5 minutes ago, washing same dirty t-shirt) sort of activities? I'd love to read your stories!


  1. That was wonderful... I still don't know how you do it. we can barely contain one toddler. The only thing like that that ever happened to us was someone paid our toll for us on the parkway so we paid for the person behind us.

  2. You know, I'm not sure some days how we do it either, but last night I read about a woman taking her 5 kids to Ireland right now. The youngest are triplet boys, identical, and 2 years old. I think the oldest might be 7 or so, maybe. Anyway, I swallowed hard and realized, she's got me way beat any day.