I tend to write about things that make me smile – especially when I am including quotes from the kids – but today I am going to write about something E said that really made me think.
A few weeks ago, I was at the grocery store with the kids, and someone complemented me on our behavior. I responded with a smile and said something like, “Oh! Well, give us 10 minutes!” implying that at any moment chaos would reign.
The lady laughed; we parted ways, and I didn’t think anything of it. For most of my life, I have deflected whatever complements I receive and been pretty self-deprecating (I hope in a positive, light-hearted, ‘confident-enough-to-laugh-at-myself’, never want to be ‘an-ego-who-absorbs-positive-attention’, kind of way.)
But E thought about it a few seconds, and then she asked me why I had said that.
I had to admit, as I considered her question, my heart sank.
I felt a little better when I realized that she was genuinely confused about what my answer meant. (Too young to realize a literal interpretation would indicate my belief that our good behavior would never last, and way too young to pick up on the humorous intent…) With regards to E in that moment, the bottom line is that I was able to craft an explanation that made her feel good.
But I still had a pit in my stomach. I realized, as I processed E’s question, that my ideas about how to receive kid-centric complements were (1) denying my children the opportunity to enjoy a benefit of their good behavior, and (2) setting an example I’m not sure I want them to follow. Despite my traditional M.O. (as a confident, ‘laugh-at-myself’, ‘trying to avoid an ego-appearance’ kind of adult who will always joke about the chaos of childrearing when it’s appropriate, maybe this means when kids are out of earshot?), the reality is that I hope my kids will accept complements and simply say “thank you”. Now, looking back, I can’t believe that when someone said something nice about and to my children, I implied (even jokingly) that the nice moments wouldn’t last instead of seizing an opportunity to celebrate a good day of good behavior from my three very young and impressionable kids.
How great would it have been if the lady had complemented our behavior, and I had responded by saying:
“Thank you. The kids have been great today, and I am so glad they get to hear you – and me – say that. It means a lot that you took the time to complement them.”
I’m sure the lady would have felt good about the response, and I can only imagine how proud all the kids would have been.
So next time we get a complement, I am going to say “thank you” and smile at the person who gave it. Then, I am going to give a great big smile to all of my kids.