When my children were small, there was a charming little store in our hometown that sold dishes and pottery, home decor items and clever greeting cards. That might seem like an odd place for me to frequent with my four young children, but we were regulars.
It was my go-to stop when I needed a gift or a card for a friend–or even when I just wanted to browse. But the real reason my children and I often stopped by was to visit “Auntie Gail.”
Gail owned this little shop, and I guess I’d known her or known of her my whole life. Still, we didn’t really become acquainted until I started bringing my children into her store. You would think that a woman who owns a well-ordered gift shop full of fragile things would cringe at the sight of a mom coming through the door with a stroller, a toddler, and two more kids to boot, but Gail was always genuinely happy to see us.
Gail was the mom of older kids who delighted in my little ones
A mom of big kids, Gail seemed to truly delight in my young children. She held the baby, listened to my children tell stories, and always asked me about all that was going on with our family.
Trips to “Auntie Gail’s” shop were a treat for my kids, but probably an even bigger one for me. Her interactions with my children allowed me a few blessed minutes to shop in peace and a place to go, to get out of the house and interact with other adults. When we visited Gail’s shop, she provided me with a little respite in my day, a place to stop in and recharge and regroup.
Still, as much as I appreciated the chance to do a little shopping and to be around other grownups, Gail’s attention to my children was so much more than a matter of convenience or a break from my kids. Her welcoming kindness gave my children wonderful childhood memories of our hometown–of a town square with friendly merchants and cookies below the cash register.
Gail showed my kids that the world was a welcoming place
More important, “Auntie Gail” showed them that the world is a welcoming place, where people are kind and cheerful and eager to hear a good knock-knock joke. To this day, those trips to Auntie Gail’s have stayed with my children, and she has remained a friendly presence in the lives of my children and a dear friend to me.
Now that I am the mom of big kids, I want to be the “Auntie Gail” (or Auntie LC) to the women of my community, to the children of my co-workers and the families in my parish. I want to be the lady who asks young moms about their children and then listens, really listens, to their frustrations and their funny stories.
I want to delight in other peoples’ young kids
I want to hold other people’s babies and sing songs with their toddlers. I want to listen to a six year old tell a silly joke or a really long story about his Halloween costume. I want to delight in other people’s children, not just because I think little kids are adorable (which I do), but because I know what it’s like to be a young, exhausted mother.
I know that for moms of little ones, sometimes the best recharge is feeling welcome, like someone else is genuinely glad to see you and your children and that maybe your kids even brighten someone else’s day a litte.
And someday, if I’m really like Gail, I will remember to send these children graduation cards. I’ll continue to ask about them and take an interest in their lives even when I have grandbabies of my own.
The attention and kindness, the support and sense of community that Gail offered to me and my children was a gift that I will always be grateful for. And now that my kids are big, I love paying it forward.
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