“Who drew that?” I asked my 12 year-old son, pointing at the sketch of a horse on a paper lying in the middle of my kitchen counter.
“Me,” he said.
“No way! That’s amazing. I didn’t even know you could do that. Did you trace it?”
“Nope, I just looked at this photo of a horse I found on my iPad.”
“Oh my God,” I said. “It’s so good, dude. You should keep practicing. I could never do that.”
Three minutes later my daughter came in with four drawings. She presented each one to me. The first was a dragon-ish thing. The next, a unicorn-ish thing. Then a witch and a ghost.
“Those are cool,” I said.
“Not the comment I was looking for,” she said.
I knew right then what she wanted. She wanted me to gush as I had over Felix’s drawings, but they weren’t that great. She’s a pretty good artist, but this was not her best work. I didn’t feel like doing it. I didn’t feel like I should be a fake. So I let her walk back out and toss her pictures on the counter as she turned on the tv.
Nothing more was said, but I can’t stop thinking about it. How can I help her feel like she’s amazing in a more authentic way? I don’t want her to think that everything she does is going to be amazing because, let’s face it, that’s not reality. But I also know the weight of my words fall much more heavily on her little soul. What I say matters to her. So I need a plan because I want to be the mother that she needs. I decide to come up with some things she is amazing at doing and list them so that when they come up, I will remember to tell her.
Annie is one of the kindest girls I know. She is as far from the stereotype of a mean girl as you can get. But, guess what, we don’t tend to hand out kindness awards. So she might not know how much it matters and how much it will serve her on her journey. I make a mental note to notice and note it for her out loud next time I see it.
She is also extremely empathetic and loves to connect to how characters in her book or a tv show might be feeling. It is this empathy that will serve her well when she has to analyze literature or if she becomes an entertainment critic or a political analyst. I need to point that out too.
It’s important to write out a list of things you want to remember to tell someone. You really can’t trust your memory, though you might think you can. You’ll forget the nuances or the way you felt in that exact moment. I need to remember, for example, how I felt about Annie’s feelings in that moment. I don’t think I’d have done things differently, but I do know that I’m learning about what I can do moving forward.
We can learn from our mistakes. We can grow from our mistakes. We can change our behavior.