She caught me off guard. So I stood there dumbfounded as I wrestled my squirmy two-year old. Never in my five years of parenting had this happened to me. I didn’t know what do say or how to handle the situation. I tried to act nonchalant, but I was taken so aback that I knew I was doing a poor job of hiding my awkwardness. I put my son down as I tried to think of the right words to respond. But all I could think was, “Did she really just say that!?”
It had been a hard week. A hard month actually. My little boy had started kindergarten and with all the medical challenges it had not been the smoothest transition for him. His first month of school had been wrought with physical pain and numerous drug trials. My little guy was struggling, so I was struggling. The week prior had been particularly hard because my son had to have some medical procedures that were terrifying for him. I was feeling lost and exhausted and so I stood by myself at the corner of the building in hopes of avoiding any obligatory conversations while I waited for my four-year old to be dismissed from school.
I didn’t even see her walking toward me until it was too late. She was obviously approaching me and I had no intention of being rude and walking away, so instead I simply waved and said, “Hello.” To say I knew her would be an overstatement. It was more a case of me knowing who she was. Her daughter was in my son’s class and so I had seen her several times at drop off and pick up. She seemed nice enough and was always friendly, but we weren’t friends. My son on the other hand adored her daughter. I couldn’t blame him really, she was one of my favorite kids in his class. The minute I saw her after school one day covered in mud with scratched up knees and blond pigtails, I knew she was a girl after my own heart. She was precocious and articulate and she made me smile every time I saw her. My son often talked about her and how he liked playing with her. So when her mother walked up to me, I wanted to be friendly even though I was so tired I felt like falling over.
She had a deliberate quality in the way she approached me and I knew she wanted to tell me something. As she reached me she said, “I heard that your son was in the hospital?” It was more of a statement than a question. I sighed and tried to think of the simplest way to explain what was going on with him. It was long and complicated and it seemed impossible to give a one sentence explanation. “Yeah, he was. Last week.” I told her. She nodded and wore a serious expression. I found her worry sweet. “He’s fine,” I explained, “He has a neurological movement disorder. They were just running some diagnostics on his esophagus…” She shook her head and interrupted me, “Oh no. You don’t have to tell me. Its none of my business,” she said. I nodded okay as I wondered why she would approach me about it if she thought it was none of her business. “I just wanted to make sure he’s okay,” she continued, “I also wanted to let you know that I live and work just a few miles from you. I own my own business and have really flexible hours.” I stood there and just smiled and nodded. I had no idea why she wanted me to know about her work. Did she really think this was the best piggy back conversation to my son’s health issues? “Anyway,” she sad, “I just wanted you to know that I can always be available for you if you ever need help with the boys. I’m happy to take one of them if you ever need to take the other to the doctor or both of them if you just need a break.” I had no idea what to say. It was so kind. She didn’t even know me, and yet she was offering to help more openly and freely than most of my closest friends. She offered help with no questions asked and without condition. It was an offer that moved me and made me want to grab her and hug her. “Um…Wow. Thanks,” is all I could think of to say. “I mean it,” she said, “I can always make myself available. Anytime day or night. Just let me know.” She was causal and kind and I felt worried that I was acting put off. But I was truly surprised and not sure what to say to her bold and out of the blue offer. “Being a mom is hard enough even with a healthy kid,” she continued, “I don’t know what your situation is, but I would hate to think a fellow mom didn’t have help if she needed it. So I just wanted to put it out there in case you ever do.”
It’s funny, because that day I needed to know I wasn’t alone and that I had support. I was feeling very isolated. I was instantly grateful that she wasn’t afraid to bring it up or talk about it. I was thrilled that she wasn’t intimidated by my situation but instead seemed ready to embrace it. I wasn’t expecting support that day, especially from a women I barely knew. But she gave it to me. In one simple comment she exemplified the idea that support and empathy does not have to come from understanding. But rather it can come from a place of compassion and the ability to walk up to someone you hardly know and offer kindness. She could not relate to me or my situation, but to be a friend she didn’t need to. “Thank You,” I said softly, “Thank You.”
Just then our kids came running up to us laughing. “Mom…mom, can we go play at the park!?” they said in unison. Neither of us had anywhere to go, so we agreed to a spontaneous after-school play date. As we walked to the park it became very clear to me where her daughter had inherited her spunk. She was without question her mother’s daughter and I liked them both very much.
That was the first day of an amazing friendship and I will forever be grateful that I know I have someone to call day or night should I ever need it. But mostly I’m grateful to have such a kind supportive friend who was not afraid to jump into my crazy world no questions asked, no explanations needed. She is a friend. A true friend. And I feel honored to have her and her beautiful daughter in my life. I only wish that there more people like her in the world.
So to you my friend, thank you. I have never really said it to you properly and for that I’m sorry. While I have not yet had to take you up on your offer, I know some day I will, and it gives me great peace to know that you are there. Thank you for your kindness and for giving your daughter your beautiful empathetic spirit. She is a lucky little girl to have you as her mommy and I am lucky to be able to call you my friend.