Shortly after giving birth I realized that anytime I walked down the street with a child I was greeted by other parents as if a member of a secret club. It seemed that every parent who passed me gave me a nod or smile as if we were already acquainted, based solely on the fact that I had a stroller or baby carrier in my possession. A few years later, I continue exchanging these greetings with strangers walking the journey of parenthood with me. Here is your guide to the five main types of greetings parents give each other:
1. The “Congratulations!” smile-nod combo: This greeting typically comes with an exaggerated smile and is prompted by seeing an infant in your stroller. This is the first and most positive greeting that other parents can give you. No matter how exhausted or cynical we all become, there is still an excitement that is fired up in us when we see new life, and therefore a new parent joining our ranks.
2. Niiiiccceee stroller: Prior to becoming pregnant, I never noticed strollers. However, in the months prior to my baby shower, I became a stroller aficionado and studied each one I saw on the street. I began to see that strollers were the way new parents exerted their status in an otherwise baby-drool-soaked-active-wear lifestyle. When passing each other on the street, a nice stroller garners a nod of approval. This nod can be adapted for parents who also do impressive stroller maneuvering: double-strollers up a set of stairs, grocery-laden overstuffed strollers, and off-roading or puddle-jumping jogging strollers.
3. Oh yes, my child has tantrums like that too: This is a sympathetic nod when your child is screaming or throwing snacks that lets you know you aren’t alone. We have all been there, so it is nice to acknowledge that universal truth when you see another parent in the trenches of toddlerdom. There is no need for the….
4. My child is so much better behaved than yours… right now. The most pretentious street nod. When I get these, I hope that I run into these parents later on when their child has their inevitable meltdown. When I am the fortunate parent with the well-behaved children, I give the #3 nod above and you should too.
5. Yeah, I slept 4 hours last night too. This greeting is typically reserved for the 6 AM strolls around the neighborhood to the local coffee shop. Wearing pajamas with a sweatshirt on top? Forget to brush your teeth? Unsure what day of the week it is currently? Yeah, I am right there with you. There is something unifying about the fact that we saw the sunrise together and that when the rest of the world wakes up well rested, we will be ready to eat lunch.
So the next time you find yourself pushing your stroller past another family, look for these nods coming your way. We are all raising these little humans together and can use all the support we can get, even if just a little non-verbal nod on the sidewalk. Every bit of encouragement counts.