Wild abandon

“Wow,” he says, and for some reason I brace myself, unsure of what I’m about to hear.

It’s our morning rush time. I’m on “my side” of the counter making breakfasts, packing lunches, unloading (and reloading) the dishwasher, and directing traffic.

The same as any other day; but today Jason is working from home. It’s unusual for him to be planted in the middle of this morning chaos, and although it’s going (relatively) smoothly, I feel shy about it.

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I look up, meet his eyes, note the tilt of his chin, the thick of his scruff, the crinkles around his eyes (those, I love the most).

He’s siting next to our son, navy blue Twins cap pulled low, sweatshirt half-zipped, bar stool twisting beneath him. His fingers are wrapped around his favorite mug — the one he’s had longer than we’ve known each other. “Wow,” he says again.

I pause, splay my fingers on the counter between us, and face him.

The sun is bright and glows through the windows. Outside, winter melts in drips off of trees, the swing set, the roof.

Our kids clamor for their space in this routine. I hear their chatter, their spoon clangs, their sips in our background. But I focus in on Jason. “You’re pretty amazing right now.” He says. His voice is soft, his stance mirrors the feeling. “It’s really fun to watch you.”

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And I, too, melt.

Not just because of his words or this pause or my mood, but because he complimented me on tasks that I do every single day without bars to measure against.

Am I doing this right? Did today go well? Who knows? I feel rushed and teetering and like while everything is happening and getting done, it could stop at any moment if I don’t keep movingpackingdirecting.

I’m a mess. My hair is curly, unruly, my glasses sit low on my nose (they always do; I’m not sure why), my cozy, slouchy, but admittedly sloppy pajamas are still on. But to him I’m “fun to watch” and this compliment goes straight to my heart. I soften, and find lift within it.

There’s a lot of worry about how we give compliments. They need to be specific, authentic, moderated. Not too much! Not too high!! Not too many exclamation points included!!! I’ve heeded these warnings, and even repeated them.

But I think I’m changing my tune.

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When my children say, “You’re the best mommy ever!” I believe — and agree wholeheartedly with — them. We are, indeed, the perfect fit for each other. My answer is always, “Thank you, babe. And you’re my best ever.” And when in response they lean in close enough for me to smell their hair, see the glints of gold sparkle in their eyes, feel their sweaters or sweatshirts or mis-buttoned long-sleeves against my skin, I know we both soften and find our lifts within these compliments as well.

So I think that I’ve been worrying too much about how and if and whether I should compliment.

And rather, I should give compliments out like children do, like my husband did. With wild abandon and authenticity, when the moment grabs me and with as few or as many words as I really and truly feel and mean.

I lay with my daughters before bedtime (almost) every night. In contrast to the speed of our mornings, this time is slow, quiet, soft. Their heads rest on pillows bookended to my own, their fingers lay laced across their chests, the light of the moon kisses a glow onto their cheeks, their eyes, their freshly washed hair.

Last night, I was struck by how pretty and eloquent and funny they were and I told them, simply, unguardedly, just because. And I saw the softening, felt the lifting, and knew it was “right.”

When we gift compliments with wild abandon we give and receive softness.

We also send the message that we’re noticing other people’s small moments of goodness. And together, this smallness adds up to a universal lift and happiness. And suddenly, we’re people who don’t guard our kindness or brace ourselves when we’re about to hear commentary on our work. We’re people who see others — and ourselves — with kind eyes and kind words. And that? Is not so small anymore.

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***

At allParenting I wrote about Alternatives to vegetable oil — have you tried to cut vegetable oil out of your cooking and baking? What do you use instead?

I also wrote about Things our kids will never know about. Remember film canisters and the excitement of getting doubles? How about phone booths and that quarter from mom “just in case” you needed to make a call?

What would you add to either one of my lists? Come weigh in at allParenting!

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Comments

  1. I love this Galit.
    From here on now, I too, will compliment with wild abandon.
    Starting with you – your writing is terrific, and your heart is golden. Love you!

  2. I think any woman reading this can appreciate that compliment from your husband.
    I agree with you that it’s time to stop worrying about how we give compliments. As long as they are from a place of truth, I say fire them off.
    As always, great post, Galit.

  3. Your words just slay me – this is one of my favourite posts! I love every single thing about it and being authentic has been on the top of my list for a while.
    Also – is it bad that I really love that last picture, that has a description of the German-type-beer Kölsch in the corner? That put a big smile on my face :)

  4. Felt this so much. And YES OMG we are amazing at mornings, right?

  5. Your writing never fails to bring tears to my eyes and heart! What a beautiful moment and what a gorgeous lesson to learn. Compliment with authentic, wild abandon. This will never damage our children or cause them unrealistic beliefs about themselves; it simply can’t. Big love for you and this post!

  6. Real compliments can be so hard to come up with for some of us, me for sure. I need to work on that.

  7. Gosh this was great for so man reasons!
    I loved how Jason appreciated the little every day things. I love when my husband also does that. In a way, it makes it, I don’t know, worthwhile? Validated? I guess it gives me more energy, because things are, yes expected, but again, appreciated.
    And I like you, just tell my girls how I love this and that about them. Unabashed. In the moment. I want them to know the good that they are. (Even great!)

  8. my glasses always slide down my face too and I don’t know how they get there. Isn’t it nice to be recognized for the small, wonderful, everyday things that we do?

  9. Love this portrait of the five of you and how you treat each other. I’m all for compliments too despite my call for less !!!! some time ago. (That wasn’t really for kids, actually.) Meanwhile, for a few weeks after my discussion on that, I had the hardest time leaving blog comments. Only had myself to blame. (It really IS hard to write without a touch of hyperbole, emotions, and !!)

    This was really beautiful. And I DO mean it.

  10. hey guess what?
    it’s really fun to read you too ;)

    and rather like a blessing.
    clearly I agree with wild abandon. :)

  11. Oh how I adore this piece Galit!!! YES!!! My mantra? “When I see good, I claim it.”

    I love every bit of this- every beautiful good claimed.

  12. A compliment can really brighten up someone’s day. There is nothing better than seeing a smile spread across a person’s face. Do it with abandon :)

  13. Ohmygosh Galit, I love this so so much. Yes, we do need to compliment with wild abandon instead of fretting and worrying that everything is perfectly stated. You are amazing. Your writing is glorious and this portrait of your family? Oozes love.

  14. I love this, Galit. I will remember this the next time I pay a compliment. I want to see it and feel it and say the words with wild abandon. I will also try to accept the compliments I receive in the same spirit.

  15. Oh my goodness! This is beautiful. Every word.

  16. I read this a few days ago and it really stuck with me. I need to give more compliments to those I love, and appreciate all that they do so much more than I do. Thank you for the lovely insight.

  17. I love the way you write. Truly and honestly and I never tire of telling you so because I am always inspired after reading you. To go back and craft my memories with such a careful and eloquent words.

    I suppose I never think about how I give compliments I just give them as I see fit. Perhaps with wild abandon? Though I have a hard time accepting them. This is something I must get over.

  18. Oh, my friend….this honestly made me tear up. These are the moments that remind us to just BE. Be who we are, the way we like to do it. And to be adored for it is the icing on the cake. Hugs it your man…he’s a keeper.

  19. Gorgeous. Perfect. And exactly what I needed to read at this moment. Thank you for the gift of your beautiful words!!

  20. Thanks for this Galit, and Jason.

  21. The shyness you describe, it’s so close, so real. A genuinely beautiful and nourishing post. xo

  22. Lisa Thompson says:

    Galit, this is beautiful. Oh my.

  23. Breathtaking! Always love reading your words about you and your husband. So strong your love is that it shines right through my screen.
    I often worry about the compliments too – how to give not too few and not too many and make them all just right and specific and all the rest. But you are so very right, it is better to just share them and lift each other up.

  24. You could have been describing our mornings, except Tim in usually here and the one making the eggs and bacon. We are a good team. Just like you you and yours. This is so lovely… xo

  25. I will remember this, Galit. To acknowledge the simple, everyday amazingness of my loved ones is so easy, and so easily overlooked. Thank you for the reminder! PS Your husband is a good one. :)

  26. your words paint such a vivid picture. i feel as if I’m sitting in the kitchen watching you too. Your husband is a sweetheart and the king of compliments.

  27. I do believe it’s possible to throw around too much praise. A lot of kids (of course, I’m speaking of the privileged ones whose parents cherish them) receive lavish compliments for just about everything they do, no matter how much effort or actual achievement came first. Praise, then, can lose its meaning. Kids are become less motivated (sometimes) expecting something in return for little.

    But if a compliment is not only sincere, but aimed at an IMPORTANT attribute – something that truly matters – it can be the BEST gift we give our children. The key is to avoid mindlessly saying, “That’s great!” when we haven’t even paid attention to what they’ve said (GUILTY, by the way!).

    And maybe to focus on the inside rather than the out, you know?

    I remember when I was a young girl, my mother telling my sister and me we were kind. Studious. Generous. Open-minded. She refrained from commenting on our beauty – because A. in her eyes it was a “given” and B. we had no hand in it. Hey. We were born pretty she thought). But who cares?

    How we TREATED others was what mattered.

    I wish I were more like that. The part of me that wants to be told I’m beautiful tells my daughter she is. Often. And I think my mom might have gone TOO far – leaving me insecure out the ‘outside’ which – let’s face it, is a driving force in a woman’s life, whether it should be or not.

    Still. I try to temper my compliments with both kids by aiming them at things that really count: The stuff my kids weren’t BORN with but actively WORK on to make their lives – and others’ better.

    I hope that ramble made some sense.
    Basically, I’m agreeing with you.
    In a long long long long comment.
    XO

  28. Galit I found myself just playing on the internet today and I found my way to your beautiful site and I am so glad I did! I love this piece and can so relate to watching my compliments that I give my kids. I make sure I am noticing the action, keeping it open ended so they feel empowered. Yet there is something so beautiful about just saying what we feel in the moment. I also love that you took the compliment that your husband gave you without dismissing it. So often my husband will say something to me in those crazy moments and though I love it I will make a face or joke about just how glamours I look in my “best” comfy clothes with kids all around me! Thank you. As always I get so drawn in by your writing.

Trackbacks

  1. […] Wild Abandon There’s been so much said in the media and in books about how to compliment a child in a way that constructive – be concrete and specific with your compliment and be measured. We are no long supposed to give compliments with wild abandon. But are we missing out on something by not being so free with our compliments? I love everything that Galit writes, especially this. […]

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