I had a friend who was a lot of fun to hang out with. I always looked forward to spending a girl's night out with her, and she was a great help to me during many a deployment. She was, however, one of the last people I would ask to watch my boys. This wasn't because I didn't think she could handle them, but more because it bothered me at how little good she seemed to find in her own children.
I knew she loved her kids because they were well cared for. She always made time for them, and would stand up for them when needed. When she talked about them in casual conversation, however, it seemed they had no redeeming qualities. When I would try to compliment one of them, she inevitably rolled her eyes and told me something negative this particular child had done. It frustrated me, and eventually led to me spend less time with her.
I want to say her behavior was unique, but it really isn't. I've even seen it show up on blogs where the description of a child in the sidebar includes something negative. Why is it we feel the need to put down our own kids? Why is it so important to let everyone else know why they aren't perfect? Is it really so bad to just accept a compliment or keep the negative thoughts between you and your child? What will people think of us if we keep our comments positive? And, really, does it even matter?
I know I'm not immune to this. More than once, I've found myself countering a compliment with a, "Yeah, now if only he could learn to pick up his toys at home!" or something similar. I'm trying not to do this anymore. I'm supposed to be their advocate, their cheerleader, the one that loves them no matter what. If the message I'm sending instead is that they are full of failure, where does that leave them?
The saddest thing to me about my friend's behavior was knowing that it would eventually harm her relationship with those same children. I heard a lot of this kind of talk from my own mother, and I got the message that she didn't think that highly of me. I carried that with me for a long time. I used to think that everything I've done since leaving my childhood behind was a way to prove her wrong, but now I wonder if maybe she did see good things in me, but chose to keep them to herself, as my friend is doing now. What a difference it would have made if she had shared!
Ana is a mother of two small sons, and keeps believing she'll publish a novel one of these days. She is also a restless soul who would like to do nothing more than move around the world for the rest of her life. Her submariner husband has obliged by sending them all to the Bahamas for three years, where she blogs about life at Sunrise on the Water.
*Pic taken by Ana.