Dear Stranger at the Hockey Game,
I wish I could have met you, talked to you, maybe even laughed and cried with you. Our interaction, through a bathroom stall door, only lasted a few seconds, but your kindness is something that will always stick with me.
I was in the big stall at the end in the ladies’ room at a hockey game, with two of my three children. I was frustrated with the three-year-old (lately it feels like I’m ALWAYS frustrated with the three-year-old) because I was changing her pull-up (when she should really be wearing underwear) and she wasn’t getting her feet back into her pants the right way. It’s gross down there on a public bathroom floor, and I just wanted her to hurry up so I could stop crouching in the germs and stand up already. Meanwhile, one of my four-year-old twins was taking her time, swinging her feet, leisurely doing a poop. As I struggled to wrangle wiggly legs into the world’s smallest skinny jeans, the four-year-old thought it was a good time to share some Deep Thoughts.
“Mommy,” she began.
“Mmm?” I said, not really listening.
“If a girl marries another girl, then their kids get to have two mommies!”
“Yup! They sure do!”
“But I want my kids to have a dad.”
“Well, you can decide about that when you’re older and you find someone that you really love.”
She picked her nose quietly as she thought about that for a minute.
“Ok. I’m ready for you to wipe me now.”
And then, as I was wiping a bum and desperately trying to keep the three-year-old from either escaping or fiddling with the feminine hygiene disposal thingy, you knocked on our door.
My first thought, honestly, was, Isn’t it obvious that someone’s in here?? It reeks of poop, a child keeps thumping against the walls, and we’re having a loud conversation about my daughter’s theoretical future family structure.
But you knew we were there. You knocked, and I called out, “Hello,” and then you said something that has made me wish I’d thrown open the door to thank you right there and then. You said,
“I just wanted to tell you that you’re doing a great job.”
And that was it. I think I said “Oh, thank you so much!” or something like that, but I was so blown away that I didn’t even know what to think. And then you were gone.
Your words meant so much to me. Lately, I haven’t felt at all like I’m doing a good job. There are moments, sure, when I feel like I just might be on top of things, but it seems that the other moments, the really hard, all I want is to scream and throw things and run the hell away from here moments, have been coming at me thick and fast.
My three-year-old is a huge challenge. Winter, never my best season, has settled in. I haven’t been writing. My family suffered a tragic loss on Christmas Eve and I’m still processing it. I’ve been yelling too much and sleeping too little and drowning in piles of laundry and eating mounds of cheese. And that day, the day leading up to the big family outing to a hockey game, was particularly awful.
But you gave me such a beautiful gift, there in the dim, overheated bathroom at the hockey arena. You reminded me that, in spite of the stress and the self-doubt, I’m doing okay. The kids are okay.
You only overheard a few minutes of my life with my children, and of course we can’t really make judgments about each other based on such a brief snapshot, but in those minutes, I think you got me. You understood that I needed to hear that I was doing a good job, and you made the effort to tell me, even though I’m a complete stranger.
So thank you, incredibly kind person, for your words. We all need to be encouraged more often, whether we’re parents or teachers or carpenters or waiters. This business of being a grown-up can be really fucking hard, and it’s important to be reminded that as long as we’re doing the best we can, we’re doing a great job.