A roundabout compliment

I pick at my kids constantly.

Go blow your nose. No, that’s not good enough. Here, let me help.

Your head stinks. Did you use shampoo when you washed your hair? What—? You KNOW soap does not count as shampoo. If you don’t do a better job from now on, I’ll have to wash your hair for you every time you get a bath.

Get your elbows off the table.

Hold your fork right.

Chew with your mouth closed.

Put your knee down at the table. For crying out loud, child, SIT ON YOUR BUTT. Those cheeks are meant to KISS the chair!

Unbutton the top button of that blouse. It makes you look uptight when your shirt is buttoned all the way up to your chin.

Close your mouth. It makes you look dull when you leave it hanging open like that.

Sit up straight.

Give me your hand. Oooo, yuck! Your nails are gross! Fetch the clippers.

Don’t stretch your shirt out with your knee.

Don’t sing so loud.

Don’t BREATHE so loud.

Don’t rock the chair like that.


Your breath stinks. Did you brush your teeth yet this morning? Really? Well perhaps you better do it again.

And so on.

But the tables are turning. My kids are beginning to pick back.

The other week, I sat beside my eldest daughter during church. She tapped me on the arm and when I looked over at her, she gestured to her chin and made a swiping motion, mouthing something about a hair. I swiped at my face, freeing a hair that was stuck to my lip gloss. We smiled at each other.

But she kept staring at me—I could feel her eyes burning holes into the side of my face—so I glanced down again. This time she pressed her lips together tightly, signaling that I ought to follow suit. Apparently, I was gaping stupidly. We giggled, and I whispered at her to stop staring at me and pay attention to the sermon.

Some people might think this picking back is rude, disrespectful of elders and all that. But not me. I find it oddly comforting. My kids’ ability to observe and point out my flaws (the older two are becoming quite perspicacious) shows that they’re judging me by the measuring stick I have handed them. When I look at it that way, their critiques feel downright complimentary!

(And in case you were wondering: no, she did not wear her homemade wire specs to church.)

This same time, years previous: life, interrupted, potato gnocchi, mocha pudding cake


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