I met a young woman at a car dealership just about two years ago. I was there to get an oil change. She and her family were car shopping. Sitting in the child play area with two of my kids, the young woman parked her stroller opposite of where we were sitting and unbuckled her boys. She got her toddler and baby settled with some toys while her husband remained with a sales clerk to discuss cars.
I stole a few glances at the woman. She was pregnant. Trying to calculate her boys' ages, I thought to myself, Wow, soon to be three kids under the age of three. Just like I had.
Thinking back to my early days of parenting, I remembered how busy I was. How tiring it was. And sometimes how old I felt. This woman so young. She too so busy. But she didn’t have time to be tired. She was keeping tabs on her boys and sat down with them when they sat to play. She jumped up when one scooted off to a different corner of the room. She also stayed one step ahead of her other son he wanted to explore what lay beyond the play area.
The older boy reminded me of my brother when my brother was a baby—tan skin, curls, deliciously round cheeks. And happy. Her older son was so happy. I found myself giggling as I watched him.
The young woman and I made eye contact and said a polite hello. She tried to apologize for how quickly her boys took over the play area. I told her not to worry. I had five kids, also close in age. Her sons were a delight and certainly not a bother. I picked up a magazine but continued to steal glances of her children as I read. I was drawn to them.
The oil change was taking longer than usual. The automotive rep came over and apologized for how long things were taking. He added that it would be a little bit longer. I didn't mind. In fact, I was glad to have a reason to stick around. I felt an overwhelming urge to talk to the young mom. I get that feeling every now and then, that I'm in the right place at the right time. But it’s not for my benefit; it’s tends to be someone else's.
I noticed one of the boys had mild eczema and felt compelled to say something. But to blurt out “Hey, your kid has eczema. Will you tell about it?” didn't seem polite. I tried to start a conversation a few times but came up speechless. A few more minutes past before I mustered the confidence to say something.
I don't remember now how I started the conversation, but we ended up talking about a lot of things, including vaccines.
By the time our conversations was over, the young mom and I had chatted about everything. We talked about parenting. We talked about the benefits of having kids close in age. We discussed nutrition, vaccines and eczema. I had just seen an article about a study from the 1950s make the rounds in some discussion groups about eczema, so I mentioned that I thought I’d read that it was recommended to not give vaccines to someone who has it. This young mother had not heard this and was floored. For a second I regretted opening my mouth. But what could've been a conversation stopper opened a door.
What I had shared turned into the chance to have another conversation. The young mother realized she was not as informed as she could be. She confided that she had worries. But her pediatrician didn’t respect them. She had quite a few questions. But her pediatrician didn’t answer them. She had concerns about her boys’ health. But she realized she didn’t have the support she needed to help them.
The young mom promised to read more. I promised to guide her if she needed help. I’d have to guide her from a distance though. My car was finally ready. We parted ways with the promise to keep in touch.
It was a few months later, we found each other again. She messaged me, and I quickly replied. Thrilled to reconnect, and ready to answer as many questions she warned me she had, our friendship blossomed.
In the two years since our random meet up, we continue to discuss all sorts of things—holistic doctors, homeopathic remedies, childhood vaccines, homeschooling, trusting your gut and finding and keeping strength while parenting—no topic has been off limits.
Because of how busy we both are with our families, we don’t get to meet up as often as I’d like to. But we have had a few get togethers, most recently a play date that was full of lots of play—imaginative, associative, parallel and collaborative play. I couldn’t believe my eyes! The boys had grown both in height and in development. And this time, I didn’t have to steal any glances. My eyes darted around the room excitedly watching them enjoy the toys and the time we spent together.
While sitting at the table playing play dough with her older sons, I looked at the young mother and was filled with a great amount of joy. She did it. She made changes. She took control of her children’s health. She went against her pediatrician’s practice and found another provider willing to walk with her, not be condescending toward her. How rewarding for her, and also for me as well. She respected my thoughts and suggestions and found strength to turn things around.
She has three boys now. Three lucky boys are heading down the path to better health because of their dedicated mother. Their mom nervously but bravely stepped away from mainstream medicine and what it was dictating. Because of that, these children are on a different path. They are going in a different direction, and I can see that it’s a good one.
That wasn’t the first random and life-changing encounter I’ve had. I’ve had a few more since the one at the car dealership. I attribute these unplanned meet ups to the Holy Spirit. I feel Him tapping me on the shoulder. I hear His quiet message, “Say hello. You must. You have a lot in common. And you’re the perfect person to help.” I’ve ignored that message before and feel terrible that I did.
I’m glad I found the courage to speak the young mom at the dealership. She is now a friend. Plus, she reminds me a lot of me—determined, passionate about her children and ready to do whatever needs to be done for them. She is a good mom doing great things.
Motherhood is rewarding. So are friendships and experiences that bring great amounts of joy. I have been blessed with many friendship, including some that have started with a random meet up. I have a lot of respect for the moms I don’t plan on meeting but somehow find our paths crossing. These moms are sometimes lost and sometimes feel helpless. But they soon find out that they are actually determined. They know that something needs to be done. They see that things need to change. When they realize that, they get a second chance. They are now confident and no longer feel lost. I’s then that they start to believe. But these mothers don’t just believe in their kids. They finally believe in themselves.
Cathy Jameson is a Contributing Editor for Age of Autism.