Like many parents, I often feel like a broken record. I seem to be saying the same things over and over again, and I'm never sure if my kids are actually listening or absorbing any of them.
That goes for compliments as well as criticisms and directions. I try to catch my kids being good, as the experts recommend, on a regular basis. That's become especially important with my older son Tommy, age 11 and a newly-minted middle schooler, who has sadly entered a fairly sassy/argumentative pre-teen stage.
After butting heads with Tommy almost daily over the likes of getting homework done, using electronics wisely, cutting out questionable language, eating healthy foods, picking up his stuff, etc. etc., I want to remind him that I love him and that overall, I think he's an awesome kid. I want to tell him that I see his best qualities, too.
So my bedtime words often fall along the lines of, "I'm very glad to be your Mom," or, "I love your creativity and your sense of humor -- thanks for bringing those things to our family."
Tommy's response is frequently an absent-minded "thanks, love you" or some kind of grunt that defies translation. As I close the door, I wonder if my remarks got past whatever else was running through his head, in his case probably a replay of a recent football or baseball game.
But then, with no advance notice that anything would be different, came last night's moment.
"You're a great kid," I told Tommy as I turned off his light and began to leave his room.
He immediately sat up in bed.
"Oh Mommy," he said. "That's so nice of you!"
I paused at his door. "Well, I mean it," I said.
A huge grin spread across Tommy's face. "Thanks, that really means a lot to me," he said. "Guess what? I think you're a great Mom. Can I give you a big hug?"
This scene, I'm fairly certain, will be replayed in my head during our upcoming head-butting episodes. It was a reminder that I have to keep talking to my kids even if they don't seem to be paying attention or wanting much to do with anything I have to offer, which I imagine will happen more as they become teenagers. That goes for the compliments, the criticisms, the advice and even the attempts at launching conversations deeper than sports scores and funny moments on television.
Because you never know when kids ARE going to listen and hear -- and suddenly want to give you a big hug.