Children are renowned for their candor. They don’t tend to hold back their thoughts or mince their words.
The other day I wore my hair differently (I couldn’t be bothered to blow-dry it ) and the six-year-old Chatterbox said to me: ‘You look pretty today. I like your hair that way.’ I could see her caramel eyes taking me in, judging me like a friend might.
Her observation took me a little by surprise. Here we go, I thought, she’s going to start telling me what to wear next.
I didn’t have to wait long. The very next day we were getting off the bus and she told me that I looked nice. Then she seemed to back pedal slightly. ‘Your leggings do look a little short.’ I glanced down, noticing a thin strip of pale winter skin showing between the hemline of my trousers and my socks. She was right – they did look a tad short.
It’s a strange thing to suddenly get appraised by your kids. She’s seeing me as a separate person, someone who isn’t just her mother. It’s like she’s developing the ability to see me from a distance and not with the myopic view of a toddler.
My three-year-old sees me as a Mommy blob. She doesn’t yet have the ability to view me as another person with a life outside of motherhood. To the Raging Bull, I am probably still just the arms that wrap around her in comfort; the breath on her blubbery neck; the hand that crushes hers when we walk across a busy street.
My new critic is still mostly complimentary, but how long will it be before I become a source of embarrassment and not a source of pride? I give it a few years at most.
I think back to my elementary school years in San Diego. My mother used to pick me up in this huge burgundy Oldsmobile. Even in the early 80s, it was starting to look like a relic of American engineering. It had the biggest back seat you could imagine. It was less a car and more of a boat. There was nothing sophisticated about it.
I remember feeling slightly embarrassed by this car. In the United States you are judged by the car you drive, believe me. This car did not make me ‘cool’. I already felt like an outcast and this only seemed to verify it.
I got over this eventually and, luckily, my parents traded in this monstrosity and bought a much more sensible Honda Accord in silver. I loved that car – until I crashed it at the age of 16 and left it in a state of ruin. My parents, who disregarded many of the unkind things I said to them as a teenager, forgave me.
I know my children will say something that will hurt me one day; it’s inevitable. Until then, I am going to bask in their praise and try not to forget to praise them back.