This morning, a virtually empty post-vacation fridge had me braving the grocery store with all three kids in tow. While this usually results in a lot of reprimanding and swearing that I’ll never (ever) do it again, today was different.
The kids decided to play a game Big’s friend taught him recently called Sweet or Sour. They say a casual hello to a stranger, then if the person says hello back, they get a Sweet point. If not, they get a tally in the Sour column.
As you can imagine, the kids were a bit silly, but the results were fascinating. I found myself smiling throughout the shopping trip, and I saw many more happy faces than I’ve ever seen from fellow shoppers on a trip to the grocery store.
A number of people said hi with a smirk, not sure whether to be sincere or acknowledge that they might be the subject of a childish game. But a number of people smiled and engaged the kids and/or me in conversation—grateful to be a part of something beyond the mundane task at hand. And, believe it or not, only three of the 25-ish people were honestly and truly Sour.
But the best part? It wasn’t the thank yous, small talk, or smiles the kids got from strangers—though those were certainly more welcome than the looks we often get when bickering our way up and down the aisles. It was the fact that we all made our way through the store…well, happy. Not one behavior-based threat. Not one exasperated sigh. Just four Sweet things with one not-so-sweet task behind us.
Of course it got me thinking… My chest puffed with pride thinking of the strangers I’d engaged in my own unofficial game of Sweet or Sour along the way. The truth is, I’m a big believer that a smile goes a long way—especially when it comes from a stranger who could easily look right through you. I can’t help but feel the day is a bit brighter when I get responses like, “Well, you sure look happy today.” Or, “How nice it is to see someone smiling!”
But just as quickly, a sinking feeling set in. Why—why??—is it so hard for me to be Sweet when it comes to my own family? The constant barrage of requests, the giggles that hint at an even messier house, the crocodile tears that come with a next-to-nothing scratch—I all too often throw Sour their way. But the truth is, no matter how tired or exasperated I am, Sour only makes me—and everyone around me—more so.
So, from now on, as best I can, I’m going to play to win at home too. I’m going to do my very best to lead with Sweet. Because if today’s grocery store experiment is any indication, I’ll get a whole lot more Sweet in return. And what mother doesn’t crave just that?