The things that will never make it in the baby books and other musings from a stay at home mom

Friday, March 25, 2005

Compliments of a stranger

Today felt like a "freebie" to us since Paul was off work and we had nowhere we had to be, so we bundled the kids up and took them downtown to walk around a bit and get a bite to eat. We ended up at Vickie's Diner, a local hot spot with classic diner appeal, and after a short wait, we were lucky enough to score the coveted window table.

An older woman dining alone was seated at the table next to us and I could feel her watching us throughout our meal. I caught her eye early on and smiled at her and she told me what a beautiful family I have. I thanked her and Evan waved cheerily at her before we turned back to our table. I continued to feel her eyes as we waited for our food and as we ate, and while I wasn't particularly put out by her interest, I did feel a little bit as if I was being scrutinized.

Turns out I was right and she was watching closely. At the end of our meal, she spoke to me again, complimenting Evan on his excellent table manners (luck of the draw -- the kid usually flings food around the room willy nilly, but I wasn't going to tell her that). "You spend a lot of time with them, don't you," she asked me. I smiled and admitted that I do. "It really shows," she replied. "You're doing a great job."

She chatted with Julia for a few minutes, complimented me again on our family and then paid her check and left the diner. Soon after, we did the same. Her sweet comments stayed with me, though, and left a warm feeling that's lasted all day. Someone thinks I'm doing a good job. Granted, that someone knows nothing about me or the job I'm doing, other than what she saw of a half an hour family outing during which my children happened to be uncharacteristically well behaved. But she thought enough of my parenting skills to compliment them. And it made me feel good. Until I sat down to write this entry. Because as I wrote this, I suddenly realized that if I'm so desperate for affirmation, so insecure about the job that I'm doing here that I need a complete stranger to tell me I'm doing OK, well, then I'm probably not doing so great after all. It was nice of her to say such sweet things about my kids and my parenting skills. But being able to say them myself? Now that would really mean something.

So here goes. I think I'm doing a pretty good job with this mothering thing. I'm raising 2 nice children and so far, I don't think I've done any damage that a few years of therapy won't heal. They're loved and clothed and fed and they feel secure and happy in their world. I've taught them to be interesting and interested and to value those traits in others. They know right from wrong, they usually choose to do the right thing and they know that even when they do the wrong thing, I'll still be there to back them up. I'm proud of them and I'm proud of myself for the way I'm raising them.

It feels a little odd to write those things and I'm almost a little embarrassed to have done so -- as a society, we're not conditioned to pay ourselves compliments too often. But you know what? We ought to. I think a pat on my own back means a heck of a lot more than one coming from a stranger. It's good to be proud of what I'm doing here, and to recognize the value in the work I do every day with my kids. It's great to feel the warm glow I felt today when that woman complimented me. But I should feel that way because I know it to be true, and not because somebody else tells me so. I'm doing a good job. And it was awfully nice of that woman to remind me that I think so.


At 7:07 PM, Anonymous Gretchen C. said...

Oh! This was another great one. Ben and I got one of those compliments after leaving a restaurant at Idyllwild -- the boys had been just HORRIBLE -- it was one of those meals when I announced to Ben that from then on, we were going to eat every meal at home until the youngest turned 6. So you can imagine how grateful I felt when the "older" couple, who left around the time we did, told us we were doing a great job. Perhaps she saw how harried I was and took pity.

Interesting point about needing affirmation. Food for thought. You *are* a good mommy of course; the amount of thought and attention you put into your kids speaks for itself, and the love with which you write about them.

At 3:09 PM, Blogger Kristy said...

There we parallel lives again. Two "atta-boy" posts in two days.


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