Everything I ever needed to know about good self-esteem I learned from my son.
Today Monkey is having his class pictures done. Last night, I asked him if he wanted to help me pick out what he would wear. He’s coming up on 5 now, you know, so I figured he might want to have a say. Little did I know.
“Let’s try on this shirt,” I said brightly. He eyed it and then slipped his arms in. It was too big, on account of you don’t actually grow all that fast on the all pop-tart diet. “Okay, not this one. Take it off, please. How about this red one?” That one fit, and he spun around for me to admire him.
“This one is very handsome,” he told me. “Do you think I should maybe wear a tie?” I raised my eyebrows. He pointed back into the closet. “There’s a tie hanging on that hanger. I think it would make me even more handsome.” I bit my lip to keep from laughing and brought the tie out for his inspection. “Oh, diggers and trucks! This is perfect!” he exclaimed.
I couldn’t resist giving him a squeeze as I laid the shirt and tie out on his chair. “Okay, honey, go brush your teeth, please.”
“Okay, Mama.” He trotted out to the bathroom and then spun around and came back, a single finger perched in the air to signal a matter of great importance. “Um, Mama?”
“Which pants will I be wearing?” I choked just a little, but managed to keep a serious face.
“These jeans, I think,” I said, showing him the jeans I’d taken out before we picked the shirt. He tilted his head at his dungarees and shook it ever so slightly.
“Mama, don’t you think I would be even more handsomer in some nicer pants with my red shirt and my tie?”
“Oh!” Clearly I hadn’t realized the can of worms I’d opened, here. “Well, maybe you’re right. Shall I pull out a pair of church pants, do you think?”
“Yes, please.” He watched me like a hawk while I dug through his pants drawer, and pulled out a pair of cuffed khaki chinos.
“Do you think these are okay?”
“Yes, those will be lovely.” (I swear to God I am not making this up. If you have never seen a small boy declare his pants lovely, you simply have not lived.) “Um, Mama?”
“Do those pants have the… uh…” he was gesticulating wildly, and I waited. “The ummm… thingies… that are for trapping a belt?”
“Oh! Belt loops?” He brightened.
“Yes! Belt loopses! Does it have those?”
“Yes, these pants have belt loops. Do you suppose you need a belt as well?”
“Mama,” now the rolling of eyes; yes! Clearly I am so brain-damaged, my ability just to breathe with regularity is astonishing. “Of course I need a belt to look handsomest!”
“Okay, that’s fine, I’ll take out your belt, too. Anything else?” He pondered for a moment.
“They’re downstairs in the mudroom. I think you’re all set, buddy.”
“Okay. You are going to be buying lots of my pictures because I am going to be so handsome you can’t stand it, I think.”
At this point, I had to laugh, because it was a necessary release to prevent the melting of my brain and heart from excessive adorableness. “I think you are exactly right, Monkey.”
Fast forward to this morning. Breakfast was peppered with practice smiles and running commentary on how he would not paint today, and he would be very careful not to get dirty, and he wondered if any of his friends would be nearly so handsome as he. (Probably not, we concluded.) Chickadee doesn’t have photos until next week, so she ate in sullen silence and whispered to Monkey that his tie was stupid when she thought I wasn’t listening. This didn’t produce even the slightest damper on his mood of self-adoration, thankfully.
We arrived at the bus stop and Monkey went to each of the three neighbor girls, in turn, to announce, “I am wearing a tie today. Because I am handsome.” He took their giggling for agreement, and threw his arms around my legs as the bus arrived. “Bye, Chickie!” he called out. Then: “Mama, I am so excited to be so handsomish for pictures. Let’s get me to school!”
I brushed his hair one last time and gave him a kiss as he ran off to show his tie to his friends. “Ohhhhh, Monkey, don’t you look handsome!” gushed one of the teachers.
“Yes!” he agreed. I should be embarrassed, I guess. But why? He’s very matter-of-fact about his elite status. His joy is contagious. He is—after all—the most handsomest. We should all be so kind to ourselves.