When You Realize You’re Making a Difference

Some days — if not most days — parenting is a pattern of cleaning, dressing, feeding, refereeing, playing, disciplining, and surviving. Often you wonder if your voice fizzles into nothingness as soon as it escapes your mouth. No matter your tone, your volume, or your phrasing, your offspring refuse to acknowledge your utterances. Then, there are the moments when you witness the impact of your efforts. You have undeniable proof that you are making a difference. That your hard work is worth it.

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Yesterday was one of those days for me. After school, I headed to the nail salon with my kindergartener for a surprise mother-daughter pedicure. We were overdue for one-on-one time and my toes needed some TLC. Perfect, right? Until we approached the intersection just before our destination.

Emergency vehicles swarmed in the center of the 4-way stop. Cars were being detoured. There had clearly been a significant vehicle accident. This is when people’s true colors shine through.

Those who understand the gravity of the scenario, let others in front of them in traffic, increase their politeness, and decrease their sense of urgency. Others try to take advantage of the situation and try to creep ahead of fellow travelers or, worse yet, become rude and abrasive toward those around them. Some think “us” while others think “me.”

Two cars back, a driver laid on the horn. “He shouldn’t be honking,” my daughter said, “those people just got in an accident. They could be hurt and he’s being grumpy to other drivers. He needs to be nicer right now.” The girl was spot-on. Shifting priorities, empathy, perspective… all of those talks had gotten through!

We arrived at the nail salon. The parking lot was unexpectedly packed. I’d never seen it so full. We entered the busy salon and my daughter went to pick out a nail polish color as I signed the guest book. “Do you have an appointment?” Asked one of the nail technicians, holding her client’s lotioned foot in her hand. “No, we don’t.” I replied. “Sorry, we’re busy. You come back another day.” I looked at my daughter, expecting to see tears and reddened cheeks. Instead, my 5-year-old calmly stepped away from the nail polishes, walked back to me, and grabbed my hand. She wasn’t upset. She wasn’t resentful. She was completely accepting of the plan change. All of our discussions about the value of being amenable, of accepting that life doesn’t always go as planned stuck!

We exited the nail salon and I knelt on the sidewalk. “I’m so proud of you,” I told my daughter, looking into her blue eyes, “you didn’t complain one bit about not being able to get a pedicure. I’m sorry I didn’t think to make an appointment. Thank you for being so flexible!” My daughter smiled and said, “You didn’t know it’d be busy, Mommy. It’s ok. We can just go do something else together. Maybe we can get doughnuts and I can bring some home for my brothers and Daddy.” I encircled her in a deep hug. She’s learning… it’s getting through!

Some days you end the day as a human petri dish with a sore throat from yelling, a headache from frustration, an aching back from wrangling tantrums, and a full bladder from being unable to stop to pee. Then there are those rare moments when you glimpse the success of your toils. They’re the parental trophies. Proof of our efforts.

You’re making a difference, even on your hardest days.

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