Love and affirmation

In addition to the whirlwind that is a quick family visit (into which you feel like you really OUGHT to be able to cram a good six month’s or so worth of time together, even if it’s only a few days), the kids are having conferences this week at school. I love school conferences, because they represent a unique opportunity for me to embarrass my children.

Oh, I kid. About the embarrassing part, anyway. I mean, if Chickadee is to be believed, I can turn anything into an opportunity to embarrass her.

[Aside: One day before something at school she came upon me applying some mascara. “Why are you putting on MAKEUP?” she asked. “It’s not a big deal.”

“Oh, I just figured I’m so embarrassing to you just by existing, I’d at least make sure I looked okay, is all,” I told her.

“You look fine without it,” she said, and for a moment I smiled, until I heard her muttering on her way out, “It’s not like mascara is going to keep you from being embarrassing.”]

Anyway. Conferences.

We keep in pretty close touch with Monkey’s teachers, so there’s never any real surprises there. Plus, with Monkey what you see is what you get. He is equally adorable and infuriating at school as he is at home, so it’s not as though there’s revelations to be had, there. Maybe that will change some as he gets older, or maybe it’s just part of his essential Monkeyness, but either way, that’s how it is for now.

Chickadee, on the other hand, is well into that developmental time when she needs to be separating from her parents, and that separation is generally accomplished via behaving as though our sole goal in life is to ruin hers. This is less disturbing to us than it sounds, most of the time, because it’s what she’s supposed to be doing, I guess. On the other hand, it’s MORE disturbing to us than it sounds, occasionally, because sometimes her behavior makes it hard to believe that she’s basically a good kid (even though she absolutely is).

One of the things I’m beginning to see very clearly through my daughter’s eyes is that there are things you need from your parents and things you need from other people. She needs me to tell her I think she’s beautiful, but she doesn’t believe it until she hears it from her friends. (“Because you HAVE to say that, Mom!”) When I tell her she can do better, it’s reproach in her ears (whether I meant it that way or not), whereas when a teacher says the same, it’s a challenge she feels buoyed to meet.

I can think back to various teachers in middle school, high school, and college who changed my life in all kinds of non-academic ways. I can also remember, I think, times when one or both of my parents may not have been delighted by my allegiance to this teacher or that; and I wonder, now, how it might have felt to them when I was being rotten at home but good as gold for a relative stranger.

Anyway, we went into Chickadee’s conference and were handed her interim report card and told she’s an excellent student, a delight to have in class, and as we clowned through our standard, “Chickadee, did you bring us to the wrong room? Is there ANOTHER Chickadee in this class, maybe?” schtick, the teacher added, “She’s just a good person.”

My daughter—steadily emerging from her shell over the last few years, but with vestiges of her former shyness still clinging to her sharp edges—ducked her head and tried, very hard, not to look thrilled. She failed.

And I was glad.

If I have to just be the “meanie jerk” (her new favorite indictment; I blame Kira‘s Tre for that, by the way; THANKS, TRE!) who’s always demanding that she get up, pick up, snap out of it, move along, be nice, try harder—and I DO have to be that person, because that’s my job—I am eternally grateful for all of the other adults in her life whose relationships with her are less fraught, less tied up in history and longings and differences and sameness, who can say the things to her which she will not hear from me. I am grateful that I had people like that, growing up, and twice as grateful now that Chickadee will reap the benefits of those sorts of relationships.

And I will never, ever resent those easy dynamics she has with others, either.

I certainly didn’t follow up such a nice statement by pointing out that one her teachers had marked down that she talks in class, and then when it was confirmed that she is “a little chatty” triumphantly declare, “I’M SHOCKED!” Nor did I then feel like a total asshole when the teacher followed it with a small chuckle and, “At this age, I don’t worry when they talk a little in class. It’s the ones who are silent that I worry about.” Nope. Not at all.


Happy Love Thursday, everyone. May we all get the love and affirmation we need along the way, in whatever form makes it something we can really hear.


  1. k.mayer

    Love conference time to find out who are kids are away from home. You done good when the kid shows well, and is horrid at home. You’re supposed to be pulling your hair out, while the entire community raves about how wonderful she is. “She’s a good person.” Wow. Forget the As and classroom discussion. That’s the best report card any parent could get.

  2. elz

    Yea Chickadee, yea Mommy! We had a similar experience with our Em. The teacher could not have been more effusive in her praise. The one thing she said of which we were most proud, that she is the nicest kid, always helpful and respectful. She does what the saying says “Save the Drama for your Mama.” I’d rather she saves it for me since she knows I’ll always love her, no matter what. However, my God, am I going to need a new coping mechanism when she becomes a tween. Oh Lordy.

  3. s

    how interesting that the kids attend the conferences!

    and how wonderful for you to hear what a good person she is – you raised her that way!

  4. jenn

    “May we all get the love and affirmation we need along the way, in whatever form makes it something we can really hear.”

    Amen (and that might have just made me tear up a little…)

  5. Megan

    What a lovely and generous post – to not only allow other adults to be the looked-up-to ones, the ones who can give that vital ego boost, but to also be really, really truly happy about it.

  6. Jill W.

    That is a lovely post. And I am getting “It’s not like mascara is going to keep you from being embarrassing.” printed on a t-shirt!

  7. dad

    Chicadee has your wit.
    In the future, I hope you get a lot of satisfaction and a few guffaws from reading the blog she doesn’t yet know she will be required to write…every day.

    Is sarcasm genetic?


  8. Katie in MA

    I laughed out loud at the mascara bit – that kid of yours cracks me up. You can tell from her sense of humor what a fabulous person she is growing into!

  9. Randi

    Awww, that’s awesome. Congrats to both children for doing so great in school, and to their mom and step-dad for helping them!

  10. Jen

    A. A few weeks ago, my J (who is the same age as dear Chickadee) left his cell phone in my purse. When he realized this, he called frantically from his dad’s phone to give me instructions about answering his phone if it were to ring, the basic gist of which was not to, unless it was someone I know, by which he meant someone we are related to (because I know his friends, but under no circumstances am I to answer the phone if they call). Because apparently the embarrassment of your mother existing in the first place is completely trumped by the embarrassment of your mother having a friendly conversation with your friends on the phone. From his reaction, you’d think I was going to call every person in his phone book and iterate every stupid and embarrassing thing he has ever done in his life. (which actually sounds like a good punishment to threaten in the future.) A similar conversation was had after the school sent me an electronic copy of the class directory – he told me to forward it to him, and then to delete the email and the copy of the directory on my computer (I told him that was a no-go, which brought about a storm of unpleasantness and pouting seldom seen)

    B. The teacher of my A (who is the same age as Monkey) went out of her way to send me an email about how great A is doing in class, and how excited she is to have him in her class again this year. She told me the same during a school function this week. If this wasn’t the third year in a row that she had a child of mine in her class, I would think that she was confused about whose mother I am. I have received similar comments from his after school program coordinator. My theory is that he uses up all the good at school, and I get whatever is left.

  11. Anne

    “…get up, pick up, snap out of it, move along, be nice, try harder….”

    I swear, I’m going to get that emblazed on a plaque and hang it over my desk…. There are some times in my life when I need to hear those words…and I’m over 30! LOL

  12. joaaanna

    Wow – what a great compliment! You should be proud – you’re doing it right!

  13. Carla Hinkle

    That is such a lovely compliment. At my 1st grader’s conference this week, the teacher said “She is very kind to the other students.” I think my heart juuuuust about burst into pieces at that one.

  14. Tracy B

    I’m loving this whole “get up..pick up..snap out of it, and move along…” statement. I need that on a bumper sticker or better yet, big neon lights on my roof! LOL Happy Love Thursday!!!!

  15. Heather

    Good on ya, Mir, you’re raising some pretty great kids!

  16. JennyM

    I’m with Anne and TracyB — I need to put “get up, pick up…” over my desk.

  17. MomCat

    Beautiful summation! We’re fair game for their worst behavior, yet that’s a great compliment.

  18. Rachel

    We tease my 13 year old daughter about how embarrassed she is that people see her with her dad or me… “OMG I don’t want anyone to know I have… parents!! How embarrassing!! Especially parents who are involved in my life & want to spend time with me, or know who I am hanging out with!” =)

  19. Little Bird

    Huh, my friends all thought I had the coolest mom. And for the most part, I agreed with them. I must have had it easy.

  20. Jenn

    “Because you HAVE to say that mom!”

    Tee hee. I remember feeling that same yin and yang of needing that affirmation from my mom and still not fully believing it. And, if we’re being totally honest, I still do sometimes. It’s fun being a girl, isn’t it?

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