It is now February, and Valentine’s Day is upon us. Now that Leila is 6, she is old enough to really understand what these holidays mean, and to be excited by them. She looks forward to each one on the calendar, because it means that there is some new reason to celebrate. And her excitement about the holidays is contagious; suddenly days that meant only a little bit are now a lot more fun.
Which brings us back to Valentine’s Day. A friend of mine forwarded me the cutest idea; everyday for the month before Valentine’s Day, I would write a compliment on a heart of colored construction paper and tape it to her door. The idea is that by the time Valentine’s Day rolls around, her door is covered in hearts that don’t just show her how much she is loved, they reaffirm all of the wonderful things that make her special. The first five were easy: You are an awesome ballerina! Your smile is brighter than sunshine! You are the smartest girl in the whole world! But as the days grew on, I discovered myself struggling. The compliments that started to spring to my mind first were all physical observations. Your hair is perfect, you have such pretty eyes, you are the most beautiful girl in the world. And that was after some real thought, because after around the fifteenth day, coming up with any compliments at all suddenly – I am ashamed to say – became a struggle. I even secretly considered googling good compliments for little girls during some down time at work.
Wait a minute! What was happening here? Since when was it hard to come up with 30 compliments for my baby? And why were the first ones that sprung to mind based on her outside? I mean, I compliment my baby all the time…right? Right? I got to thinking, really thinking, about the notion of a compliment. It is reaffirming, it is encouraging, it is loving. Anything that positive should happen all the time. But does it? Or does the compliment come second to the correction?
What has been amazing though, is that this little exercise has forced me to sit down and consider all these things. This simple little activity that has taken five minutes out of my day has pushed me to focus on my baby’s strengths, not her flaws. It is making me dig past the surface of cute smiles, shining eyes and springy curls, find the true value in my baby, and then lift it up in her face to her to marvel at also. Her compliments are less obvious and more meaningful: You are a wonderful listener; you are a leader; you have a heart of gold; your kindness is amazing; you are as talented as you are smart as you are kind; everyday you make choices that make mommy and daddy proud. And with each heart I cut out and taped to her door, I began to realize that the problem is not that I don’t have anything positive to say about her; it is that I just haven’t developed the habit of expressing it as often as I should. It is so much easier to correct inappropriate behavior, or compliment what is obvious, like a little girl’s smile or her outfit. But I am promising myself today that everyday I have an opportunity to remind my baby about all the things that make her wonderful and I will take advantage of it. Thank goodness for Cupid and his lessons of love!