I had to scoop up and cradle my boisterous three-year-old son as we sat on the front pew of the congregation last Sunday. To help him quiet down, I began to softly tickle his face, lightly tracing his adorable little features with my fingertip. It worked like a charm. In no time flat he stopped his fidgeting, closed his baby blues, leaned back his head and took on an aura of someone basking in an aromatherapy facial. Then, gazing down at his perfectly symmetrical, cherubic face, I couldn’t help myself. I leaned in and whispered into his little, velveteen ear, “You’re so beautiful.”
To which he fluttered opened his sparkly, dreamy eyes and whispered back, “I know.”
Where do young children get this kind of confidence and swagger? How come three-year-olds can pull off wearing their Halloween costumes all over town during the entire month of October, spilling into November, and receive nothing but compliments from passersby? (I have a Jack Sparrow right here that can attest this is true. Somehow, I don’t think I’d get the same high-fives from strangers if I kept my fairy wings on until Christmas.) The answer is, because we tell them they can. And aren’t we so glad?
Every time my husband or I prompt our five-year-old, “Hey, guess what?” The response is always the same. Our preschooler rolls his eyes and exhales, “Ya, ya, I know! You love me. You tell me, like, everyday!”
Or there’s my favorite, “Guess how much I love you?” Followed by an exasperated, “Ummm, I dunno…A hundred thousand googoo-plex infinity plus infinity?”
Most adults long to hear such words uttered and wouldn’t dream of dismissing away declarative statements of endearment with a sigh and an eye roll. We savor all compliments and praise because the school of hard-knocks has taught us to hold on to those things with both hands.
But my little ones are still swaddled up in my cozy arms of adoration and they know nothing of hard-knocks, bosses, bullies or bills yet. They may find my gushing over them exhausting and stifling now, but just they wait. It’s this same figurative foam finger that reads, “You’re #1!!” that all parents parade around, that’s going to help them do great things one day.
It’s wonderful having someone in your corner. I know from experience. One of the main reasons I have the confidence to write this here column week after week is because my parents think it’s the greatest leisure reading there is, they tell all their friends about it, and why don’t I publish a book like that one Stephanie Meyers gal? In their eyes, I can do anything…so I keep writing.
I want to carry on that same tradition of ultimate fan-hood. I want to make absolutely sure my children know who’s in their corner, who’s brandishing the over-sized foam finger in every crowd, who thinks they are so cute in their Halloween costume, why not wear it again today, who cares if it’s almost Thanksgiving? I’ll keep telling them they’re beautiful. I’ll keep prompting, “Hey, guess what?”
And hopefully, one day I’ll overhear my grandchildren sighing exasperatedly,
Margaret Anderson is a BYU graduate, returned missionary, free-lance writer, wife, and the mother of five small children. Read more at www.jamsandpickles.wordpress.com