Paying It Forward: Parental Karma

On a routine trip to Target yesterday, I noticed a few parents being friendly to one another in a particularly parent-specific way. One dad helped a mom load a huge bag of dog food into her trunk. Another held the door for a mom with a stroller and a toddler, before walking his own son into the store. Back to back, I noticed families helping one another and racking up that sweet parent karma. Have you ever come across surprise diaper changes in a restroom? A group of moms online have started leaving an emergency kit at changing stations. The small bags usually include a diaper, a few wipes, a onesie, and a note of encouragement. This kind of thoughtfulness can go a long way to a parent dealing with a surprise blowout without a spare change of clothes.

Blowout diapers are gross.

When was the last time someone held the door for you? Do you notice people are more helpful when you're out and about with your kid(s)? I think that looking like a genuine hot mess works in my favor here. Of course I can't be sure, but I'm 90% sure that one woman took pity on me because she saw me picking pieces of sucker out of my hair in the checkout line at Party City. Shep was tugging on my hand and Rory was starting to fuss, and I was trying to balance a helium tank on the edge of the cart.

This is what I think I looked like in that line at Party City.

Last Christmas, I was....ok, I'll be honest - I was in Target again, when a little boy streaked past the end of the aisle. As soon as I saw him, I heard his mom calling out and hustling after him. I stepped around to peek into the other aisle and noticed him hiding from her. Silently, I waited for her to find him - when he turned to run away, I was standing a few feet behind him and startled him just long enough for her to catch his wrist. I flashed the kid a smile and winked at his mom, who laughed and sighed out an exasperated, "Thanks so much!"

"No problem," I replied. "Just looking out for my fellow mom." I told her to have a nice day and went on my way.

Ugh, I just realized this sounds like I'm telling you this so I can get some sort of good-mom credit. No, that's not what I meant. Instead, I hope to encourage you. Look out for people who are holding the door for one another, or offering to carry groceries. You might guess I learned this from Mister Rogers, and you'd be correct - he specifically said that children witnessing a crisis can cope best when they "look for the helpers". We perceive the world the way that we choose to, so this is more about noticing what's already happening than changing your behavior.

Teach a dad how to do his daughter's hair!

Of course, being that helping hand - and building your own good karma reserves - isn't a bad idea. It doesn't take much effort to distract a fussing kid, or shoot a parent a thumbs up across the restaurant. These small gestures add up - they're the difference between someone who's "nice enough" and someone who has great Mama Karma. In your own small way, be there for other parents. You never know when another parent might really need the lift.

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