I was driving through a campground one 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. He was dragging her along beside him, and then I watched as he picked her up, firmly but carefully, so he could walk faster while she kicked him in the stomach and screamed into his ear. His face remained stern but determined.
I was just so darned proud of that stranger. I have no idea what was going on in their day, why this girl was upset, 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 say that, or anything else. 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, often, 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 by fighting over whose feet get to go where, 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 scowling 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 embarrassed about his son's part in this one-sided conflict: Solidarity Pound It.
Here's a gif I made showing you exactly how to do this. You shouldn't laugh afterward like I did, but you probably will. (And it only took me approximately 100 hours to figure out how to make a gif of myself.)
So the next time you see a parent struggling, and you want them to know that you understand, flash the ol' Solidarity Pound It and see what happens. It is likely that 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 get it.
Another teeny-tiny possibility is that they will be very confused because perhaps they haven't read this particular blog post. So they will just stare 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! Or use it as a hashtag on social media (#solidaritypoundit). On behalf of all parents in need of encouragement (so, all parents), I thank you.
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