So, my daughter and I went on a little adventure on the bus the other week - just to the local shops to get a few groceries - and while we were out, I ran into a mother from a mothers' group I used to go to. There was something in her face and body language that told me she really didn't want to talk to me, but was 'caught' when I said "Hello" and politely chatted anyway. After a few minutes, I gave her a quick out: "Well, we should go and catch our bus home, and I don't want to keep you." She gladly took it and shot off into the supermarket.
My own insecurities kicked in. My daughter was dressed for a day of mucking around at home, in her slightly mismatched hand-me-downs, a little bit of stubborn breakfast on her face; I was pushing a hand-me-down stroller, and looking 'casual chic' in my own ensemble. Her daughter looked gorgeous in a sweet, clean little dress, and while the mum was having a 'home' day too, her summer dress was gorgeous, flattering, and matched her shoes perfectly. My daughter and I looked like the riffraff neighbours, and she and her daughter looked like the well-to-do from a few suburbs over!
"Perhaps," I thought, "she doesn't want to talk to me because we look 'poor' with our clothes choices today. And maybe she thinks we're weird because we caught the bus here." And as we walked back to the bus stop, I made myself come at it from another perspective.
Perhaps she didn't want to talk to us because she knew in about 5 minutes her daughter would be beyond tired and would crack a nana? Perhaps she had a tradesman coming to her house and she really needed to get home? Perhaps SHE felt like a dork in her lovely summer dress (which would be crazy because she looked great!) and was embarrassed to be caught out by someone who knew her? We always jump straight to ourselves to explain someone else's behaviour, when you often have no idea what the other person is experiencing.
But one thing that I held on to and made me feel really good, was the job I've been doing with my daughter. While I'm so far from being a perfect mum it's funny, that day I was taking my girl for her first ride on a bus because she loves seeing them when we're driving in the car - she's always the first to spot one, even when it's blocks away! We were having an adventure!
And while I was chatting to this other mother, my daughter was wandering around between us, going a few metres away to touch a shop window, then coming back to me, then toddling over to the plant display outside the supermarket to touch the leaves, then back to me. All the while I could see her, and she could see me and was staying close while still checking out her surroundings.
"So what?" I hear you say. Well, this other mother ran to grab her daughter just for touching a shop's display window. She wasn't banging on it, or screaming - just touching, and looking back at her mummy. And she was touching the glass window because there was a delicious, creamy-looking cake on the other side! Who wouldn't want to touch that! And after fetching the girl and firming placing her on her hip, and watching my daughter just potter around us, she said: "Oh, I could never let Mary down in a place like this. She'd touch the plants!"
"So what?" I thought to myself. So what if she touches the plants? If you're there and she's not pulling the leaves off or tipping the plants over, so what? I realised on the walk back to the bus, that while my daughter and I might not always be beautifully dressed when we go out, I'm giving her a chance to experience the world around her, when some children aren't. We went for a ride on a bus - and she had fun! I let her down to investigate the shops, but always kept an eye on her and would naturally have corrected her or picked her up if she was doing something wrong or getting in someone's way. And in some small way, I hope that's helping her development and view of the world.
And today we're off to the shop again, and I wonder who my daughter is going to make friends with today - who she is going to smile at, and who will smile back at her. You never know who's day your child's smile will brighten if they're not given a chance to flash that gummy grin at others!