On the One Bad Mother podcast, hosts Biz Ellis and Theresa Thorn end each episode by telling each other, “You’re doing a really good job.” It has always struck me as such a sweet way to encourage each other when you’re in the thick of parenting, everything seems like a struggle and you feel like no one around you sees how hard you’re working.
I thought of that line when I came across this post in the r/Parenting subreddit about a mum, u/jmbrinker, who received a compliment while grocery shopping with her toddler:
We just moved and at our new store they have little kid shopping carts so I let her push her own cart and I helped while we put food in it together.
To keep her busy I let her pick out some items, picking her up to grab them and then letting her put them in the cart.
A lady nearby saw us and she said “I love how patient you’re being with your daughter. It’s so sweet to see.”
She goes on to say that grocery shopping had often been a behavioural disaster, and “I wish she knew how much those few words meant. If anything her words have helped me be more patient!”
As u/Talisker875 pointed out in the comments of that thread: “Parenting compliments are wayyyyy better than ‘your kid is cute’ compliments. Deeeeeeply satisfying.”
It made me crave more of these feel-good stories, so I asked the Offspring Facebook Parenting group if they’d ever received a parenting compliment from a stranger out in the wild.
“We were on a cross-country flight with my then 16-month-old,” group member Shruti says. “She was still a lap baby, so we were doing our best to keep her contained. At the end of the flight, the lady sitting across the aisle handed me a origami paper crane and said I did a lovely job going with the flow and she could see my daughter was loved.”
Another commenter, Lily, said that when she was a teenager, she often witnessed her mum complimenting parents of young kids in public. She’d found it embarrassing at the time (because teenager) but now that she has a toddler of her own, she sees what a gift her mum was giving those parents.
“When your kid is acting up in public, even if no one says anything out loud you can physically hear the looks you’re getting,” Lily says. “When your kid is knocking it out of the park manners-wise, however, you feel like how is no one noticing this?! My kid is killing it today!”
Sometimes simply commenting when you spy a sweet interaction will brighten someone’s day.
“I was at Target with my girl in the cart,” Jes says. “We were chit chatting and smooching. An older woman said with a happy smile that our connection reminded her of her and her daughter long ago.”
Restaurants can also be a good place to hand out compliments. Jareesa took her toddler out for brunch with a friend to a restaurant that was unexpectedly not kid-friendly. But her daughter handled it like a champ, quietly colouring through the entire meal.
“After we had breakfast, my daughter said, ‘OK Mummy, time to go,’ so we packed up,” Jareesa said. “Only as we were getting up to leave did the other patrons realise a toddler was even in the room! Several people commented on how quiet and well-behaved my daughter was.”
Of course, for every angel child sitting nicely in the restaurant, there is one who is melting down from being hungry or contained. For every toddler who is cooperating at the grocery store, there is one who throws an epic tantrum the second they get to the checkout line. In those instances? Group member Miki says to offer help.
“When my daughter was a couple months old, I was at the store and I made it the whole grocery trip without her crying. Well, wouldn’t you know it, she started up screaming in the checkout lane,” Miki says. “I kept my cool, but I was trying hard to just get my groceries packed and paid for and get out of there. Well, two ladies came and helped me. They were in the lanes to each side of me. They didn’t even know each other. But they bagged my items and told me to just hold my baby, they’d take care of it. I was trying so hard to hold my tears in, it was so SO kind of them.”