“It goes by so fast,” they say in a tone that reminds me of heartbreak. “Enjoy it!” they say to take the sting out of their sorrow. They wave to my daughter, my constant, curly-haired companion. They wink and shower her with compliments as an easy smile spreads across her innocent face.
It’s a steady refrain, repeated any time we leave the house. The experienced moms are trying to warn me or maybe even prepare me. They say it all of the time, and I’m beginning to believe it’s true.
Strangers hold open the door for us. They give us extra time in the parking lot and offer patience in the grocery store checkout line when my own stamina is wearing thin. They make pleasant conversation, laugh, and look me in the eye. The tantrums and sleepless nights must drift away with the changing seasons because they always seem to be remembering the very best parts—the baby snuggles, the bath time kisses, the first few words—and they extend that warmth and kindness to me.
We’re in it together.
My daughter is only seventeen months, and she doesn’t know that people aren’t always this kind. In fact, I nearly forgot it, too.
I left the mama bubble last weekend for a couple of hours while my husband stayed home with baby girl. I went shopping, walking in and out of stores unencumbered and without a second thought. I ordered brunch at a sit-down restaurant and didn’t share my pumpkin pancakes with anyone. I carried a heavy item to my car with both hands—not one hand precariously balancing it while also holding a death grip on my little one’s wrist. It was amazing. It was freeing. It was lonely.
No one spoke to me, except the server and the cashier. There weren’t any half smiles or knowing glances. People stared at the floor or worse—they looked right through me. My toddler, my secret weapon, wasn’t there to disarm them, and it got me thinking.
Are we really in it together?
There must be something magical about the sticky hands and runny noses of toddlers because that seems the only place we are able to find common ground. Those angelic, food-covered faces can unite the toughest opponents. What would happen if we acted like a child was in our midst at all times?
Would we open our hearts along with our boarders to the world’s most vulnerable? Would the flames of Tiki torches be traded for the flicker of white, tapered candles? Would we take down big statues that are meant to make our neighbors feel small? Would we empower dreamers to continue working toward their own American Dreams? Would compassion and generosity flow even more freely through the streets of Texas and Florida?
It’s a tall order for sure. This isn’t about loving everyone. It’s about seeing intrinsic value in everyone the same way we want our children to do. Their contagious, inner joy could be the key to our country’s peace.
Then we would truly be in it together.