Compliments often say more about the person giving them than the one on the receiving end. I have been thinking about this recently because I have received a few compliments on my children's behavior in the past few weeks.
I enter society with trepidation, as so many mothers of young children do, never knowing whether my outing to the bank, church, park or grocery store will be productive or leave me vowing never to leave the house again. Let's face it, children are unpredictable. Yes, I have my fantasies that if I could stumble upon the right parenting method, or a fabulous color-coded organizational plan, or Mary Poppins, then my children would be so well behaved that I could venture out with confidence into the world knowing that my children would be a delight to all they come in contact with.
But I live in reality.
I get annoyed looks, snide comments, criticisms, and judgements often. I even had the 80 year old greeter at Wal-Mart hand my daughter a sticker the other day and then look at me with a scowl and say, "You should take care of that dribble on her nose you know before she gets someone sick". Nice greeting.
So I take notice of compliments.
I was in the library check out line with Molly a few weeks ago and a middle age woman behind me smiled and said "Your daughter is so well behaved and quiet".
Nice compliment right?
Well she continued, glancing over her shoulder at the mother entering the library with a baby and the family of 3 boys noisily stacking their books on the counter, and the toddler crying because her mother didn't let her put the Barney video in the return slot, and said with a look of disdain "I mean it's nice to see a child who knows how to behave in a library these days".
My heart sunk. This was just her way of voicing her complaints about the other families.
I said thank you but added "I actually have 4 children and we have plenty of noisy moments too."
I identified with those other mothers so much that I wanted to defend them from this woman who so obviously thinks that children should be banned from the children's section in the library.
After a church service in which I had attempted to keep my 4, standing during the singing, bowing during the prayers, and quiet during the sermon, I was tired and ready to run to the car. The elderly woman behind me touched my shoulder and said "I just want to tell you how well behaved your children were during the service."
She smiled and it was genuine and I just wanted to hug her.
I gushed "Oh thank you! It felt like so much work." To which she replied, "Well perhaps you have higher expectations of their behavior as the mother than we do. But you are doing a wonderful job".
That woman knows how to encourage. That compliment will go a long way to refueling this mother's heart.
Now for the record, I am not a wonderful mother.
But I am a good one. Trying my best in the circumstances.
Stumbling, wondering, worrying, praying, crying, analyzing, correcting, and questioning my way through motherhood.