You know that feeling you get when the teacher waves you over for a quick chat at school pick-up? Or when another parent stops you on your way to the car and says, “Hey, I thought you should know...”
Or when a neighbour calls out your name as you head up to the front door with an armful of groceries and says, “I have to tell you something (your kid) did the other day.”
You brace yourself, right? You want to melt straight into the ground, groceries and all, or plug your ears up with a loud “LA LA LA LA LA!” Because whatever is coming next surely isn’t good.
But what if it was?
One parent on Reddit tells the story of a 10-year-old neighbour kid who helped her son through a bout of anxiety on a walk home from school. The boy overheard her talking to her son about how he was feeling and stopped to say this: “Hey, I know you’re upset and it hurts your stomach. I have the same thing and I really hope you feel better; I know how bad it is.”
When the mum ran into the other boy’s mother a few days later and told her how he helped, here’s what happened:
She for some reason seems unusually affected by this and is struggling mightily to hold back tears.
She then proceeds to tell me that Seth is having major emotional stability issues at home. His normal routine is screaming, lashing out, meltdowns and more. Basically he is a complete holy terror at home, they’ve just started him in therapy and she has no idea how to deal with it. And then she said the thing, which is what made me want to come here to share this story with all of you.
“I thought my sweet little boy was gone forever. Knowing that he’s still in there somewhere, even if I never get to see it, means more to me than you could possibly understand.”
Commenters responded with their own feel-good stories; incidents when they saw a kid do something particularly kind and told the child’s parent — almost always catching that parent off guard.
There was a child who shared his plastic eggs with a woman’s autistic son during a frantic Easter egg hunt. The skateboarding teenagers who helped a woman carry her packages into a UPS store. Another anxiety-prone boy who helped a fellow summer-camper deal with homesickness.
The kid who comforted a little girl on the first day of school — and then checked in with her every morning that week to see how she was feeling. The older kids who helped the little kids at the playground or played with them at the splash pad.
These moments often happened when the kids didn’t even realise an adult was watching. And many times, the kindness came from a child who typically received more attention for misbehavior than empathy.
Since I first read that thread several days ago, I’ve been racking my brain for a time another parent or a random stranger complimented my son in this way; I can’t think of one.
I’ve also been racking my brain for a time I made a point of complimenting another kid in this way; I can’t think of one of those either.
It’s so easy to identify and focus on the shoving and name-calling and the non-listening. The disrespectful tone and the cutting in line and the unwillingness to share. But our kids do a lot of good that goes unnoticed or unrecognised, too.
As Reddit user TrinhamTales put it: “As parents I’m sure that we can all agree that we all know the worst in our children, and while we may want to know about their misbehavior so we can deal with it, what we really want to hear is an out of the blue genuine comment on how good they are. Not so we can feel special and superior in front of other parents. But because it speaks to something deep down inside, and tells us that however hard things are, we are still doing something right.”
The next time I witness another kid being a kind human out in the world, I’m going to make sure to thank them — and then tell their parents.