I caught the bus this morning. Not earth-shattering news, I know, but it’s just giving you some context. It is the start to my day like most other days from Monday to Friday; taking the bus through the city to work on my PhD at the lab.
This morning, though, was different.
I swiped my gocard, scrambled on board with all my bags and once I had finally managed to contain them all in the baggage area, I took my seat opposite a young woman. She was dressed in gym gear with a sleeping infant snug in his harness across her chest and a pigtailed blonde toddler in a stroller jam-packed to bursting point with baby paraphernalia.
I know, I know – still nothing too amazing to report, right?
As I sat there, scrolling through my newsfeed – still waking up – I heard the woman address her toddler, “Oh look, that’s the stadium.”
“Oh the stay-dee-yum; where we went on holidays?” replied the not-more-than-three-year-old.
“No, (smiles) no it wasn’t a holiday, but that is where you went to watch the football with Daddy.”
I was flabbergasted.
Not only was she speaking with her child without dumbing down any terms, but her daughter was able to recall and articulate visiting the place before and that it was a happy time – like a holiday.
The rest of the journey ensued with the same conversational tone between mother and child. “We’re coming up to the busway now. It runs along near the train line – you might even be able to see a train. When we go over the river on the bridge, you might see a ferry, too. You could see buses, trains, and ferries all in one trip!”
Without missing a beat: “There’s a train. I can see one through there.” the observant little bundle of joy excitedly pointed out.
In addition to the absence of screaming or whining – i.e. boredom, seeking of attention – (because she already had her mother’s attention and involvement), the daughter was also actively engaged in observing and talking about the world around her. Her mother was including her child in her world and equipping her with the words to describe what she was seeing and experiencing.
My favourite part of the trip? When the daughter asked “Why is the tunnel ending?” and the mother gave a reasoned explanation about how we had passed under the city buildings without having to be on the roads with all the other cars so it was much faster, but we were through the city now, so the tunnel was ending. To which she added, “Do you remember the city? Daddy works in a building in the city, and Mummy’s office is in the city too. On days when we are both at work, you go to junior kindy and have fun with all your friends.”
I spent my whole journey sitting across from this woman, beaming inwardly, silently shouting “You are the kind of parent I want to be! Someday I want to be just like you!”
I thought I could tell her this as I was collecting my things from the baggage area which was right beside her. Not because she looked like she needed a pep talk, not because my opinion would mean anything to her, and not because I felt I had a right to pass judgement on her parenting style – none of those things are true. It was simply because I was so moved by the way she interacted with the independent little being she was raising. Then I thought it might embarrass her to be singled out like that, and besides, I’m just some random who’s been grinning like an idiot for the past fifteen minutes trying not to make eye contact with her or her precocious and endearing toddler.
So in an attempt to be less confrontational – because even giving a compliment is confrontation, I suppose – I thought I could go to my bag prior to my stop, on the pretence of getting ready to step off the bus, but quickly pull out my notebook and scrawl down my thoughts and hand them to her on a page, so she could read them silently but still know that I appreciated the example she was setting for her children, and the way that she continued to be a whole person into parenthood (as I aspire to do), and the way that she spoke to her children as though they were completely able to comprehend reason and full-length, proper names of things (because they are adaptive little sponges, soaking up all the information they can!).
But alas, I did none of those things.
I chickened out of sharing with her what an impact she had had on me. I failed to pay a compliment to someone I had never met, and am likely to never see again, because of what? Fear of messy bus-handwriting? Fear of her feeling awkward about being singled out and talking to a complete stranger? Fear of me tripping over my words, or the possibility that she may think it inappropriate that I gush over her ability in an arena in which I have zero first-hand experience?
Bottom line: I don’t know why, exactly. Maybe all of those reasons, maybe none of them at all, but the fact remains that I didn’t say it. And I regret it. Immensely. So much so, that I feel the need to write about it here. In an effort to make up for not saying it to her, I am instead saying it to the whole of the Internet.
The next time the universe throws me the opportunity, I will endeavour to share the positive thoughts that I have instead of keeping them to myself.
Throw kindness and positivity around like confetti! Right? … unless it’s none of my business, even if I’m saying something nice?
What would you have done?