You are never too old to wear glow sticks.
It is 10 p.m. on a Saturday night, and I am celebrating a friend’s birthday at the local bowling alley. I suppose this is what you do when you are 30 – you chuckle in the bathroom mirror at yourself for wearing a neon pink bracelet to feel young. The fact that I will be out until 11 suggests that it may be working…
Suddenly, my thoughts are interrupted by an infant’s incessant tears. The heightened anxiety behind the wailing is only countered with the wrath of the mother in the last stall attempting to change her distressed offspring’s diaper. She rebukes her child loudly and without forgiveness.
I am at a loss for words and, without realizing it, my hands drip dry. The beratement ends. Mercy.
I offer a prayer of thanksgiving for the dreams of two children sleeping sweetly at home.
Someone once said that the voice with which you speak to your children becomes their inner voice. The first time that I encountered this truth, I was too young of a parent to appreciate it. Now, of course, a toddler lovingly reminds me that what I say and, more importantly, how I say things matters.
Earlier this month, I braved the pediatrician’s office with both children on my own. When I am deeply stressed in public, I typically avert eye contact and, with the focus of a hawk, complete the tasks before me.
The waiting room on this particular day, however, forced me to examine my surroundings. Toy dinosaurs were flying, children were temper-tantruming, and I found myself battling the urge to abandon a wellness visit, an unthinkable act for a public health advocate.
Then I heard it – that same voice that would forever color my night of bowling fun. A mother yelled at her child: “You need to just stop. I hate you right now.”
Was it the same mother? No, but the message was equally clear.
I think about the hard days with my children – the impossible moments we all face as parents.
Although patience will try to elude us, the glow is always within reach. And it is how deeply we illuminate our children with our words that will make all the difference.