Yesterday I was running errands, purchasing paint for our home office, browsing a teacher's supply store in search of Sunday School supplies. Basic, mundane tasks we all do. It was just another extraordinary day.
When I'd finished everything I needed to do, I had a little time to waste before picking up my daughter from school. So I decided to stop at TJ Maxx to fill the time. As I passed the children's clothing on my way to housewares, I saw a little girl weaving in and out of the clothing racks. She couldn't have been more than three years old.
"Where's her mom?" immediately came to mind and I stood there looking for a woman or anyone who seemed like they would "match." We've all done this. We see a child wandering around or playing with something in a store and our eyes start to scan the area, searching for the grown-up to whom they belong. Most of the time, we find the grown-up and then we hear,"Get back over here. I can't see you."
Only this time I couldn't find the "match." The little girl kept wandering through the racks, past the baby clothes, and on into another department. I looked around. Still no grown-up. Not able to find an employee closeby without taking my eyes off the lost girl, I knelt down and asked the girl, "Sweetie, where's your mommy?"
"I don't know," she said.
"We need to find her," I said.
"What's your name?"
Still no grown-up. No one had noticed that I- a complete stranger- had stopped to talk to a small child who does not belong to me.
"Let's find your mommy. We need to find a person who works here."
Then, the absolute worst thing happened.
She followed me.
I didn't take her hand because I did not want her to really trust me. I had wished that she would scream, "Stranger! I want my mommy!" I wished that she would have stood there, frozen in that spot in the aisle, refusing to go anywhere with a person she did not know, a person who (this time) had her best interests at heart, a person who was in fact someone's mommy, but not hers.
Instead, she followed me. She did not make a peep. She followed me all the way to the front of the store. All the way to the front of the store. Then she stood there with me in line at the registers until I could speak to a clerk.
Still no grown-up.
The clerks were extremely helpful and immediately took her hand. Before they did, I knelt down again to this little girl to tell her that these ladies work there, "see their badges?" and that it was OK for her to go with them to find her mommy.
Soon, the three of us deciphered the muttered words of a little girl to learn her name. Soon, an announcement was made over the store's intercom. I watched as a clerk walked around the store with a tiny, lost hand in her firm grip. Soon, a lost child and her mommy were reunited.
There was no search party.
There was no press conference.
Only the sounds of metal hangers sliding across clearance racks and the grateful sigh of a shopper who just happened to stop in the store to fill the time before picking up her own little girl.
While I wanted to stomp in a rage in the face of this mom who, for what seemed an eternity, did not know where her daughter was, I took a moment to pray. I thanked God that this little girl was safe and I asked Him to protect her. Then I drove to my own daughter's school and sat in car line. The end of a busy, mundane, task-filled day.
This morning I saw the news about a mom who left her child in her car all day while she was at work taking care of other people's children. She sobbed on camera as police interviewed her. The images were heartbreaking. It doesn't really matter what I feel about her or the mom who lost her child in the store; something is wrong.
Something is terribly wrong.
While I do not believe that "it takes a village" to raise a child, I do believe that the villagers should help each other. The women of the pioneer days and even my grandmother's days did it right. They helped each other with household chores, watching each other's children, and mentoring one another.
Moms, if you are overwhelmed, if you are doing too much, if you are trying to please everyone all the time, stop. Take a moment to prioritize. Take a moment to breathe. Take a moment to ask a friend or a neighbor for help.
If you know someone who seems overwhelmed or exhausted, a mother or father who could use a helping hand, offer help. Offer to pick up their child from school or give them a ride to soccer practice, or plan a play date at your house so the mom can have some time to herself. Tell her you care about her and her children.
She may never ask you for help, but you can hear her cry. When you do, answer it.
A child's life may depend on it.
Edited To Add-
If you are a mom needing support and friendship of other moms, here are a few great organizations to check out. Search for a group near you. Meet moms just like you and give your kids a chance to make some new friends. We need each other, ladies!
MOMS(Moms Offering Moms Support)Club
MOPS- Mothers Of Preschoolers