I was driving through a campground last night on my way home to sleep (because that’s the only way to “camp” when you have a baby) when I passed a dad leaving the campsite playground with his daughter. He had a thick moustache and dark curly hair, and while he was too young to be this girl’s grandfather, he was probably an older-than-average dad. His face was set in a determined scowl—there was underlying frustration present, but he was totally calm. And his daughter? She was having a full-on, high-volume, kicking-and-screaming fit, and he was dragging her along beside him until he picked her up, firmly but carefully, so he could walk faster, with her kicking him in the stomach and screaming into his ear. His face remained stern but determined.
I was so darn proud of that stranger! I have NO idea what was going on in their story, why this girl was flipping out, what would happen when they got to their campsite, whether or not this guy was actually even her dad. But I just wanted to jump out of my car and say, “Hey you! Stranger! You are having a rough moment, and you are HANDLING it. You are going to survive this tantrum, and the next one too. I don’t know you, but I am with you, man. Keep on keepin’ on. Parent away. I support you!”
But of course I didn’t. I can only imagine dealing with a public meltdown and then suddenly having to also deal with a crazy stranger trying to talk to me. That would not be helpful at all. So I stayed away from this gentleman who was clearly (and understandably) already at the end of his rope.
But it gave me an idea.
We need a gesture. Something like a tip-of-the-hat, a wink, the A-OK, or the Vulcan Salute. Something that communicates, instantly and silently, “You’re doing a great job, parent. Keep up the good work. I’m with you.”
If I may, I’d like to humbly suggest the Solidarity Pound It. Basically, it’s the classic “pound it out” manoeuver in which you punch someone else’s fist, only in this case you’re pounding your own fist. Imagine you are gripping two huge beer steins and then you “cheers” them together with enthusiasm. This is the Solidarity Pound It.
Please note: ANYONE, parent or not, can use this—and they should! Sometimes, we parents are extra self-conscious when surrounded by people who do not have children. We worry that we are bringing chaos and destruction to a place where there would otherwise be calm serenity. Because, usually, we are. So if you are a professional on a commuter train, reading your e-book or working on your tablet, and you see a parent struggling to keep her children from disrupting the entire train car with their ridiculous arguing, a smile and a Solidarity Pound It would be thoroughly appreciated.
Here are some more examples of where this can and should be used:
– There’s a baby crying on an airplane, and you are sitting across the aisle with three people between you. You catch the flustered mother’s eye. Solidarity Pound It.
– There’s a woman at the grocery store going the opposite direction from you, so you pass each other in every aisle. She has two kids with her, and they are getting whinier and whinier every time you pass them. Then they are suddenly quiet and you notice an opened package of cookies in the cart. As you pass her again: Solidarity Pound It.
– A man at the park is on his smartphone while his kids play. Suddenly, his son winds up and hits another kid with a stick. The Dad snaps to attention, takes the stick, talks to his son about hitting, and makes him apologize to the stranger. You are not involved in this situation at all, but you notice that the Dad seems a bit sheepish about his son’s part in this one-sided conflict. Solidarity Pound It.
Here’s a gif I made (that’s right, I’m a computer GENIUS, obviously) showing you exactly how to do this. You shouldn’t laugh afterward like I did, but you probably will.
So next time you see a parent struggling, and you want them to know that you have been there, flash the ol’ Solidarity Pound It and see what happens. Probably they will feel encouraged, strengthened in the knowledge that their tantrumming toddler is not annoying the people around them, but that they are supported by people who understand.
Another teensy-tiny possibility is that they will be very, very confused because they maybe haven’t read this particular blog post. So they will just scowl at you, the crazy stranger punching him or herself for no reason, and their confusion will distract them for a minute from their frustrating child.
Either way, it’s a win for parents everywhere. So get out there and Solidarity Pound It, far and wide! On behalf of all parents in need of encouragement (so, all parents), I thank you.
(Seriously, though, if this is going to catch on, you all need to share it! That’s what those nifty little buttons at the top and bottom of each post are for. It’s easy as pie!)