You know, it’s a shame that all the nice things people say to me as I’m packing these boys around the city don’t have the same effect as the not-so-nice things. One “Put a hat on that baby!” has the power to ruin my week and have me questioning my ability to raise children — even if it is spoken by someone who is begging for their food. But if someone says, “Two boys? God bless you,” as we cross paths on the street, I’m likely to say, “Thank you,” and forget about it. Perhaps I smile a little more easily for the next 30 minutes, but the memory quickly fades and I’m back to my baseline mood too soon. The “helpful criticism,” on the other hand grinds and festers and scabs and scars until I cannot leave the apartment without double and triple questioning my clothing choices, my snack choices, my toy choices for any possible criticism and then checking to see that I’m ready to handle it if it comes.
This week I sat down on the train next to an older black lady. Manchild sat in front of her and just about fell in her lap trying to look out the window. She looked at him, then at Squish. “Two boys?” she asked. “Yep. They’re fun,” I said. How old? she asked. He’ll be 4 next month, and he’s 16 months, I answered. And then she let me in on a little secret: If I want to have a girl next, I just have to wait a little longer to get pregnant again. She did some quick math. “Two years,” she said. “Wait two more years, and then have another one and see if I’m right. You can tell everyone a crazy lady on the train told you that, but you just wait and see.” I told her I would definitely take that into consideration. It was a while before that smile faded.
And then there was the old man in the park. I was pushing the boys in the stroller, about to head up the hill for the second time when he waved me down, and pointed at the tree line. I stopped, grateful for a break before I tried to kick it up the hill again. “The first flowers of spring!” he said. “Snowdrops! They’re the first to come up every year. You see them? There’s a line of them right there.” They were lovely. I thanked him profusely for showing me and reveled in the feeling of being co-survivors of another New York City winter. And then I took on the hill and ran all the way home.
Perhaps my time would be better spent keeping a tally of the nice things people say, the God-Bless-Yous and the What-Beautiful-Childrens. They may sound a little generic at times, but something nice is something nice and should not be disregarded. So while we’ve heard, “The family that runs together, stays together,” enough times that it hardly even gets a smile out of us anymore, it’s worth acknowledging the effort. And those that go out of their way to share something fun, exciting, or beautiful, boy howdy, they should get a gold star. Or something.