We all know the old joke about talking to someone who is self-centered: ”So, enough about me. What do YOU think of me?” There should definitely be a variation about talking to a parent: “So enough about my kids. What do YOU think of my kids?”
As a parent, I feel like I am often judged by other people based on my children’s behavior, so I do have a vested interest in knowing what they think of them. Do they find their endless chatter entertaining or annoying? Do they see their boundless energy as exuberance or hyperactivity? Are my children fun to listen to, or do they grate on the listener’s ears? Are they merely tolerating them or are they genuinely enjoying them? Do they want to be around my children, or are they desperately waiting for them to JUST GO AWAY?
So whenever I get an unsolicited comment about them that is in any way positive, my heart just about bursts with pride. Take tonight, for instance: we had a new babysitter watching our kids, one that my husband had met but that I hadn’t. When I came home and asked her how they were, she smiled and told me about a few of their antics, then added, “You have such nice kids. You’re obviously doing a really good job with them.”
Our regular babysitter has often commented that she really enjoys watching our kids, and a good friend with kids that we have playdates with reminds me regularly that it is a pleasure to watch my kids and that she is happy to do it.
Comments like that are music to a mother’s heart. There are many, many things that I want for my children: a good education, a solid circle of close friends, a love for God, a rewarding career, marriage and a family. There are many things that I want them to be: honest, loyal, trustworthy, reliable, thoughtful, wise, considerate, loving, well-mannered. But one of the most important things that I want them to be is pleasant to be around. I want them to be likeable, and I want them to be liked. And I think the reason that is so important to me is that being liked is the result of being all the other things I want them to be. Someone who is dishonest will not be liked. Nor will someone who is disloyal, or untrustworthy, or unreliable, thoughtless, willfully ignorant, uncaring, or rude. So the fact that they are liked is proof that their character is what I have been trying to shape it into. Someone who is a genuinely good and caring person is someone who will always find someone to be on their side. Someone who will never be without friends, someone who will always be part of a group, someone who can find support when they need it.
I think that my kids are pretty terrific, and I love them dearly. I even enjoy their company (most of the time). But I know that I’m completely biased. So whenever I find someone else who enjoys them too, even when they don’t have to, it does my heart good. I love them so much, it makes me happy when other people love them too.
I guess I really am doing okay at this parenting thing.