I’m used to compliments about Anneka – she’s so chill, she’s so cute, she’s so curious, she’s so easygoing. These are all nice enough sentiments. I’ll nod, smile and say thanks.
But an elderly woman’s words at the airport today stunned me into silence.
I was at the baggage claim with Anneka in her Ironman stroller fresh from completing our European adventure, which was an amazing success for all of us. I was chatting with the woman, who looked well into her 70s and possibly 80s, about the rainbow-colored strap around her suitcase and how it must make it easier to find her luggage.
She than approached Anneka and said …
“You look like a smart little girl – grow up and show the world what you can do.”
Her words immediately resonated with me. I couldn’t even speak for a little while. These were the perfect words of encouragement, and embody everything I want for Anneka. This was a wonderful thing for me to hear. I know Anneka is too young to understand the words, but I will make sure that Anneka hears these wise, kind, encouraging words from me early and often.
Look, there are a lot of things about ourselves that we get no choice in. We don’t choose how we look, how cute we are, anything like that. So why make something a kid can’t choose the basis of a compliment? Kids – all of us of any age, really – can choose to be inquisitive, to examine their boundaries, to push themselves to do good acts great and small. And as adults, we can choose how we compliment kids. And what a great message it is to tell kids “you can be smart, you can do great things, you can make the world better.” Yes.
I wish I could’ve restored my composure enough to thank the woman who said this. I was a bit choked up, to be honest. Combined with a severe case of jet lag and overall fatigue, I just didn’t have the presence of mind to thank her, and to tell her that these are the finest words anyone could say to my daughter.