My laptop has little virtual sticky-notes on the screen where I write reminders to myself. This morning I was flipping through notes (checking to see if I'd put “windshield washer fluid” on the hardware-store list) and ran across a snippet of a letter I'd saved from Joy:
“Sheila from the Cowtown office and I were talking today about the various ways in which our moms are awesome, and she was telling me she'd heard good things about you from Red.” [Editor's note: Red used to work at the Cowtown branch of the company for which Joy works.] “She said it was really obvious from talking to him how much he loves you, and how much he wants to do the right things and make you proud of him. I just thought you'd like to hear that today. ;)”
People who work in offices get performance reviews, bonuses and testimonial dinners, but parents don't often know whether or not we're having any sort of impact at all. Even if your kids go around singing your praises in public (which I suspect doesn't happen all that often, at least in my case), what are the odds that those praises would get back to you? It's kind of like being the Popular Kid in high school; you don't find out you were the Popular Kid until your 30th reunion, because it never occurred to anyone to tell you at the time.
For me this was sort of like a double-bonus, because not only did my sometimes-temperamental redhead say something nice about me, my eldest knew how much it would thrill me to hear about it. I got that email at least a year ago, and it still gives me a lump in my throat whenever I run across that sticky-note.
You have the power to make people feel this way.
Is it obvious to you that your friend's 6-year-old adores her? Did you overhear your brother's teenage son bragging about how his Dad taught him everything he knows about cars? Did you see someone's child pick up the items scattered from an old woman's dropped purse and give them back with a respectful, “Here you are, Ma'am?”
We get so caught up in the brush your teeth/ do your homework/ stand up straight cycle that sometimes we forget a great truth: Our kids are awesome people, and they love us just as much as we love them. It's not the straight-A report card that makes either one of us successful; it's the bond we have as a family. You may make it a point to say “I love you” to your child at least once a day (and if you don't, start), but we have to get our own feedback through less obvious channels. We don't need help seeing what we're doing wrong, but sometimes we don't get to witness our hard work bearing fruit. It's easy to despair of ever being a good parent, and easy to get stuck in that mindset. YOU hold the keys to your friends' and relatives' Parenting Paychecks: pay them often, pay them generously and ask them to do the same for you. We're all in this together.
Oh, and by the way: Mollie? Your youngest son adores you. He has told me on more than one occasion that you and his Dad are his heroes. You get an A+.