I didn’t get you a card.
Oh, and that gift part. . .yeah, didn’t get a chance to get that bought and mailed off either.
You’ve been here. You know how crazy it gets with five kids.
So, I thought I’d write you a post that has been percolating in my head for the past month.
Last month, when you and mom were visiting for Marc’s and Maddie’s First Communion, you made a comment that stopped me in my tracks and I’ve been thinking about it ever since.
Let me set the scene. It was probably around 6:30 in the morning and the full court press was on. Five children awake. Two trying to catch the bus so they wouldn’t be counted as “tardy”. Two others in the early stages of waking up: meaning that they had moved from their beds to the couch. Lunches in various stages of being packed. . .backpacks gapping open hungry for the homework folders. . .Scott trying to discern and execute breakfast orders. Dylan talking nonstop and demanding orange juice, bananas and “WHERE IS MY BASKETBALL WITH MY NAME ON IT?” All the while we were trying our hardest, all eight of us, not to make too much noise because Grandma was still sleeping. I’m sure we weren’t too successful.
Your comment brought tears to my eyes.
This was the first year we’ve had what I’m sure will be a continuing struggle with children not being so nice. Friends suddenly turning. . .mean things being said. . .recess time roughness. We even had some issues with boys saying things, copying her work, telling her that her lunch was gross. Scott and I were caught off guard by its existence and its unleash of power on our daughter. We even thought about abiding by her when she told us to do nothing about the situations.
The question we were constantly asking ourselves this year was how to innoculate our daughter to these diseases of growing up: the cliques, mean comments from boys and girls, the influence of media and our social media culture. . .
You gave her a sincere, simple compliment. That is how my daughter–your granddaughter– started her day.
And I know that compliments are tricky. Too many or too drenched in sweetness and they are counter productive. Too vague and they ring hollow. Their goal cannot be about boosting a person’s self esteem but need to be specific and honest and most of all, genuine.
Maddie is a beautiful girl. I’m sure that she will garner many compliments throughout her life. Many of those might be an unsavory attempt to influence her in some way. Many will sound sincere, but be hollow. Many will compliment things that aren’t important. And Maddie may struggle with knowing the difference.
But, you see, you and mom have also raised your sons to be like this: To be examples of what men in her life should be–loving, supportive, caring, giving, empathetic, and sincere. Uncle Tim–her godfather–drove for two days to spend the First Communion weekend with us. Uncle Aaron has traveled to New Jersey and Texas multiple times to help us out and is always willing to accept an invitation to build Legos at 6:00 am. Uncle Chad is a beacon of generosity and empathy and sincerity. And, Uncle Jon, with his easy going humor and stunts (who can forget the permanent marker “tatoos” on the 4th of July?), always carves out time to be with us when we are visiting Colorado.
Along with her dad, these men surround her as pillars of a building. They surround her brothers, too. These are their references of what men should be like. Thanks for giving my children these people in their lives.
I’m finding that raising children in its simplest terms is like tuning a radio–not the digital kind where the station comes in automatically but the old fashioned kind where the subtlest turn of the dial means the difference between clarity and a faint buzz to all out static. The question is always how do we get our children to tune into their inner voice–the one that says THIS IS GOOD. THIS I CAN HEAR CLEARLY. And, most importantly, THIS IS TRUE.
For our daughter–and sons–it is hearing from the men in their life that they are good. . .that they are loved. For getting those sincere and specific compliments that bolster that inner voice to know the difference between good and clear. . .and not so good and faint static.
I have no idea what happened that day for Maddie. I don’t know if she heard any negativity or encountered adversity. I don’t know if the way we’ve tried to raise her was challenged.
I know that she started her day with a compliment from her Grandfather–a man very important in her life. In the words of Robert Frost from the poem The Road Less Traveled “. . .and that made all the difference.”
Thank you, Dad. I love you!