I think it's pretty normal to get unsolicited advice from strangers when you have children. I've always been a magnet for strangers to speak to, not sure if I just don't have an intimidating demeanor or just give off overly friendly vibes, but I'm okay with it. I've had more conversations with people I'd never met before that moment and likely will never speak to again, than I can remember. One such conversation happened yesterday, and it has resonated.
We were on our way home from a weekend in the high country, when we had to stop for a bite to eat. When a three year old cries they're hungry, you had better feed them. At the family restaurant, many folks ordering off the senior menu were enjoying after church lunch. Reagan was on her second cup of water when she exclaimed, "Moooommmmy, I need to potty." So off to the bathroom for the second time we went. In the restroom we made the usual small talk. Don't touch the potty, aren't those hush puppies yummy, haven't we had such a fun weekend... When we came out of the stall, we went to wash our hands beside a sweet white headed lady with a long braid, a pink dress and a smile. She told Reagan how beautiful she was, told me how she had six children, one born every two years, and she has been married 65 years. She smiled and told me it was hard, she knows it IS hard. She then said twice, "take care of her."
You know of all the unsolicited parenting advice I've ever gotten, some of that advice from people I know and love, this piece of advice was the best. Take care of her. I thought of the past few years. Before Reagan was even born, I had began preparations to take care of her. I saved over half my paycheck for several years. This money helped pay for unforeseen expenses. The emergency room visits prior to her birth. There was 3. All of which I was sent by my doctor's office, I swear, I was not crazy. It was just a crazy pregnancy. I was just taking care of her.
When I brought home that seven pound bundle, I had very little knowledge of what to do, but I did my best to take care of her. I cried over painful cracked nipples, the fear I wasn't an adequate food source. I watched her sleep. Counted her breaths. Bought every stupid baby device ever invented, just to take care or her.
I returned to work five short months after she was born, because we needed health insurance, we needed my income to supplement my husband's. I needed to work to take care of her. It was hard finding someone to trust to be my hands while I was away, but we have been fortunate that amazing caregivers have grown to love our babies as their own.
I cried when I stopped producing enough milk, knowing before I even saw the positive pregnancy test results, that I was unsure of how I was going to take care of her and a new baby too. I was certain as I began to mix formula filled bottles that I wasn't doing my best to take care of her. Looking back, I was doing what was right for our family in that moment. I was taking care of her.
I've held her hands as she began to take her first steps, I've reminded her we don't write from right to left, I've made sure she brushes her teeth, combs her hair, eats at least 4 different food groups, assured her there are no monsters, and told her daily how I thank God for her, just her. I know there will be times in the future it will be a challenge to just take care of her, but I'm so thankful for that sweet lady's advice. There is nothing more, and nothing less I can do as a parent other than to simply take care of her.