“Honey, can I ask you a question,” I say to my 10-year-old this past week.
We were driving home after a full day of work, school and a running program she had and we were talking about the day.
“Sure,” she replied.
Her class had put on a poetry reading earlier that day for all the parents. I was fortunate to be able to be in the audience. One by one, the kids went back and forth, reading the various poems they had each put their heart and soul and 5th grade humor into.
“I loved your poetry, you did such a great job today,” I told her. “It was fun to hear how you think about life and some of the words you use to describe yourself .. and how much you think of mom and dad.”
It really was. She and her entire class did a great job, and they thoroughly seemed to enjoy the project and the fact we were all there to listen to their final works.
“I’m curious though.. ” I added. “What did you mean in your ‘I Wish’ poem when you said you wish to be like me and that means you want to be a ‘lover?'” I asked.
I heard the words come out of her mouth at the time. But I wan’t sure if I should be flattered or mortified. I just went with it and flashed her a smile as she looked back and forth between her dad and I.
I needed to understand her meaning .. what she meant by that particular word. What it meant to her I was a ‘lover’. And then I could decide whether or not I needed to further react. I’ve always tried to be affectionate where it’s appropriate (because I think it’s important she see what a healthy relationship can look like), respectful in any relationship and discreet at all other times. But had something happened I didn’t know about? Had she seen something I should be concerned about?
As we all know .. that does happen. (insert laughter)
At that moment though, that particular afternoon, I had to put it in the back of my mind and get back to work.
Fast forward to our ride home again in the car .. and having the chance to ask her about it.
“It means that you love everyone. You are nice to everyone. Even when they are mean to you,” she said to me. “I want to be just like you when I grow up.”
“Really? That’s how you see me,” I asked her.
“Yes … you are just so nice to everybody.”
Sigh of relief ..
Now, if I can just pass that piece of knowledge along to the other parents who might be wondering what her definition of a ‘lover’ is too …
I was talking later with the cowboy.
“Your are a lover,” says the Cowboy, laughing.
“It’s your best quality and your worst enemy,” he added. “It’s your worst when people use it to take advantage of you, because you automatically love everybody. But I don’t want you to change.”
All very sweet. I’m grateful that is how some others see me. Most importantly, my daughter. I just don’t see why there is reason to treat others in any way other than with kindness and respect.
“How did you get to be that way, do you think,” the Cowboy asked. I don’t ever remember a time I didn’t feel that way, that it was important to treat others kindly. But it probably stemmed from always feeling like my role was that of peacekeeper at home growing up, now that I think about it. That’s how I remember it anyway. Right, wrong or indifferent.
All I want my child to know and that I hope she learns more quickly than I did .. there are exceptions to that rule. The exception the Cowboy so eloquently pointed out above.
Being too nice can come back to bite you if you’re not careful because people will take advantage. If there is one thing I would wish for my daughter it would be that she’s better at recognizing that than I am as she gets older – and nipping it in the bud. While I still have some work to do, I have gotten better about it. And I have made some important decisions in my adult life because I’ve come to realize … knowing when to let go or walk away sometimes, means treating yourself as kindly as you strive to treat others.