“Problems cannot be solved at the same level of awareness that created them.” – Albert Einstein

We took my son to a baby shower this weekend. My sister-in-law is having her first child in June, so my mother-in-law gathered the umpteen-cousins-to-the-nth-degree-whose-attendance-is-necessary for all social rites of passage, and we ate lots of finger sandwiches, punch, and cake and shared newborn horror stories.

I took pictures from the corner of the room and avoided conversation.

That’s what I am best at.

Harry ran around and charmed the hairpins out of little blue-haired old ladies.

That’s what he is best at.

As everyone filed out at shower’s-end, Harry was showered with compliments.

“He’s such a sweet boy!”

“What a well-behaved little man!”

As I fielded the wave of Harry commentary, I found myself dropping into an old engrained habit.

“He is most of the time, but OH, when he’s not…”

“Right NOW he’s well behaved…”

“You should have seen him last night…”

Some time in my youth, I learned that it was not okay to be proud of yourself. I have learned to downplay accomplishments in the face of praise. I learned to minimize.

And suddenly it dawned on me where.  Because I was already doing it to my son.

Why can I not just say “Thank you. I am proud of him. He is a good boy.”

My son is not the next Albert Einstein. He isn’t Miss Manners perfect and he doesn’t pick up his pinky finger when he sips his milk.

But he IS a good kid.

He is a well-adjusted, well-socialized child.

He is sweet and sharing and plays well with others.

I don’t want him to have an overinflated view of his own accomplishments.

But I never, ever, EVER want him to feel that he cannot feel justifiably proud of what he can do.


Thank you. He is a good boy. We are proud of him.

April 15th, 2008 at 4:45 pm
4 Responses to “Faint praise”
  1. 1
    jodifur Says:

    Oh my goodness, I do that too! I really need to stop

  2. 2
    OS Says:

    Which immediately proves what a good mother you are, what good parents you both are. Well done. : )

  3. 3
    gerbil Says:

    This is something my husband is having to learn… its a cultural thing in his case but oh it really chaps me when he ‘yeah but’s everything. One thing to do it to me, but he’s trying really hard to learn a dfferent approach for Jacob.

  4. 4
    William McNaughton Says:

    I wonder if that’s a female trait. Most of the women in my life do that, both to themselves, and to me.