A modern mother may one day find herself in need of a few PVC fitting to make a small household repair. Though she considers herself competent in many areas, this particular task, involving plumbing fixtures and possibly some special glue, falls decidedly outside her core competencies. After striking out at the local hardware store, she sighs and resigns herself to the no man's land of a cavernous big-box retailer. She'll have to figure it out for herself, and with a toddler in tow.
And so, she finds herself, standing in front of a seemingly endless wall of elbow joints and minimizers in every possible size, with her toddler screaming and kicking in frustration that she won’t let him scale the wall of pipes nearby. She shuts out the wailing and hurriedly picks PVC pieces, trying to fit them together and make a match to the broken fixture. Nothing fits; nothing matches; child continues screaming. Like a mirage, a salesperson materializes, “What are you looking for? I heard the crying baby and figured you must need help.” She extends her arm, her hand cradling fragments of a fixture. He takes a look, plucks a fitting from the many, many bins, says “be back in a sec," returns with another piece, puts the two together and voila, a match. “I’ve got three of those screamers at home myself. I know how it is,” he says. And there it is – an invocation of the international order of sympathetic parents.
For all the times a crying child in a public place garners withering looks of annoyance and disgust, we hope our well-mannered readers encounter a kind and understanding fellow parent, grandparent, or other adult. When a parent recognizes, remembers and comes to the aid of another, temporarily struggling, parent, he joins the order of sympathetic parents, a lifetime membership. So, thank you to Jay at the Home Depot. And, thank you to the many mothers and fathers (and others) who hold the door for mothers carrying small children, help carry strollers up and down stairs, and stop parents on airplanes and in restaurants to compliment them on the behavior of their (mostly) well mannered children. Thank you all for your magnanimous civility.