Tell Me Something Good

Oh, she did? That’s wonderful, thank you for telling me!

I try to make sure I tell other parents when I see or hear about their children doing something nice, or polite, or funny. I have been known to seek out other parents to let them know their child stood up for another, or held a door, or any myriad of other things. Just the other day I accosted a fellow mother to let her know about a conversation our sons had.

How else would she have known that her son’s words helped my son?

So I chased her down. Not quite literally, but almost.

Sometimes, as parents, we spend so much time corralling our children into the behavior society seems to demand of them that we don’t see the good stuff. We aren’t privy to the behind-the-scenes stuff, the moments which demonstrate that what we’re doing every day with all the modeling and the lectures and the corrections and the parenting is actually working. Often we don’t see the proof in the pudding because the pudding is eaten out of our eyesight. And as any parent knows, sometimes you don’t get to reap the benefits of that good behavior because, you know, our kids tend to do that maddening thing where they’re nice to everyone else and shitty to us.

Every parent wants to hear the good. But often we get so caught up in the bad and the ugly–mitigating it, preventing it, dreading it, that we forget to tell each other about the good.

There seems to be no shortage of parents who are ready, willing, and able to seek out other parents to make complaints. I’ve run across a few in my time in the trenches who seem to take a perverse kind of pleasure in it. And don’t be fooled, you should know the rest of us take absolute pleasure in watching your kid throw a shit fit in public. I even have a name for it: mamenfreude, that smug feeling you get when someone else’s “my child can do no wrong” child is misbehaving.

But…how often do we tell each other about the good stuff?

What’s that you say? Obadiah did what now?

It’s a little way of saying, “Hey! You! The one who’s trying to figure out the Xbox schedule between two Fortnite-crazed boys and despondent over the fact that her children suddenly turn their noses up at anything other than pasta with butter..yes you! Your kid did something nice today! You’re doing something right.”

Who among us who’s struggled to a school drop off, un-caffienated and bedraggled, who has gone to work with spit up on a shoulder or leaking boobs staining a blouse, who questions their ability to raise a decent human being and holy shit, who ever thought this was a good idea–who among us does not get a fleeting moment of joy when another parent tells us something good?

Why’d don’t we do that more often?

Why aren’t we slathering other parents with the balm of all the good stuff their kids do?

Hey, Zephyr told a really funny joke the other day!
Hey, I saw Juniper talking to the new boy and showing him where the music room was.
Hey, I heard Frick being kind to the lunch lady and Frack thanking the janitor.
Hey, the other day Obadiah was standing up for another kid who was getting picked on, I just wanted to let you know.

Did you see her kids pitching a fit?

I’ve been doing this parenting malarkey for a while now. And I’ve second-guessed my ability to do a good job of it no less than 84,592 times. There have been times, I kid you not, where the idea of not having enough time oh my god I’m going to screw this up I only have one shot to get it right, has kept me awake at night. Days where I have lectured and modeled and over-thunk my little Mama Berenstain Bear heart out in an effort to not throw away my shot. So when someone tells me something good? Especially on a day when I’m filled with doubt I’m cut out for this gig?

It’s like a little extra wiggle room in your jeans. You know, the ones that don’t really fit but you squeezed into nonetheless.

Seek the other mother out. Find the Dad. Tell them you saw or heard about their child doing something good. That they’re doing a good job.

Go on, tell them something good.

 

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6 thoughts on “Tell Me Something Good

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  1. Great reminder! There is a line of thought that it takes a lot of positive statements/actions to undo or mitigate the negative ones, yet we tend to hear much more of the negative. Is this part of why so many people believe our society is going to hell in a handbasket at warp speed? That kindness and respect has died a plummeting death? Maybe so. We used to keep more of those negative comments to ourselves because our parents admonished us If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all. But now the I’m entitled to my opinion and you’re blessed to hear it approach seems more dominant. I teach teenagers and can assure you that they hear far more negative stuff about how they are perceived than positive, yet so many of them–I would say the majority–are kind, empathetic, insightful, hard-working, and intelligent people. Giving them compliments or giving their parents compliments about them often results in stunned expressions or a pause as they figure out 1. if the compliment is genuine and 2. how to respond. Number 1 is valid from those who know me as I am occasionally a wee bit of a snarky smartass, but I get the look from strangers, too. A few years ago, when my ADD high school-age son was driving me ’round the bend at knuckle-whitening speed and I dreaded seeing an email from the school in my inbox, the compliments we would occasionally receive about his work ethic, his observation skills, and his dedication to community service made my day. That experience made me determined when I became a teacher at the ripe age of 43 to compliment my students and to tell their parents at least 3 good things about their kid before and at least 3 more good things after saying anything negative. It made a huge difference. Just the other day, one of our school board members–whose four children have all been in my classes–commented that his daughter, who graduated 6 years ago, still comments that she thinks of me as one of the nicest teachers she ever had. (Trust me, I’m not.) If we can brighten someone’s day and make them, for a brief moment, forget the challenges their child can bring and remind them of why they love that kid, we should. Thanks for the reminder.

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    1. I agree wholeheartedly. Sometimes as parents (and teachers, I’d imagine!) we get sucked into the vortex of negativity. And once you’re in there, spinning in circles, it can sometimes be difficult to pull yourself out. A compliment from someone else may just help you generate enough oomph to claw your way out. It is important. And equally important? Reminding us to be kind to ourselves, and reminding our KIDS to be kind to themselves. We spend a lot of time making sure they are kind to others–sometimes we forget to make sure they are kind to themselves! Keep up the good work!

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D.E. Haggerty

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