|Emma and Lily in the "yellow room"|
My wife picked up Emma from a play date yesterday. Sidebar: I asked Emma last night if they still call them play dates and she said, "No. We call them hangouts." Ahem...My wife picked up Emma from a "hangout" yesterday. We were talking about the parents, who seem nice enough, and who seem to like Emma. Leslie told me that the other girl's mother thinks Emma is a really talented singer and that she should sing at the talent show this year.
Emma will not sing in front of us, so we were trying to figure out how Emma had happened to break into song while she was at a friend's house, in front of parents she really didn't know that well. I'm still not certain we got to the bottom of that mystery, but we dug a little deeper into why she wouldn't sing for US.
Leslie: So would you ever just sing a song for us?
Emma (shifting uncomfortably in her seat): No.
Leslie and I: Why not?
Emma: I don't know.
Me: Oh come on! Why not.
Emma: I don't...you guys will just compliment me.
Me (squinting at her): And...you don't like being complimented?
Emma: It makes me feel uncomfortable.
I thought about this a little. I often have a difficult time accepting compliments. They make me feel uncomfortable. I'm not sure why exactly, but sometimes it's because I'm not sure the compliment is sincere, or sometimes because I'm not sure the person giving the compliment understands the context in which whatever I'm doing is framed (like when I draw or write and someone says I'm really good...what is the frame of reference...this is hard to explain...like if all you ever read are kid's stories, and then you read my blog and say, "Wow! This is great!" maybe it's different than if all you read is Cormack McCarthy and you say, "Wow! This is great!" Hopefully that makes sense). Anyway, I tried these explanations out on Emma to see if that was what she was feeling.
Emma: No. Not really, it just makes me feel funny. I don't like it.
Leslie: What if we listened to you sing and didn't say anything nice?
Emma: You'd have a look on your face or something. It would still be weird. And you'll tell me all the stuff I could be doing better.
Me: What if we promised to just stare at you expressionlessly and when you were done just turn our backs on you and walk out?
Emma (laughing): That might be better.
Leslie: What if we insulted you?
Emma: That wouldn't be as uncomfortable.
Me: Sometimes I feel uncomfortable with compliments. But when you get them, it doesn't matter whether you believe you deserve them or not, or whether you think the person giving them is being honest or not. Just say, "Thank you."
Emma: I know. It's just uncomfortable.
Me: We don't mean to make you uncomfortable, Emma. We just want you to know your value.
Emma: What do you mean?
Me: I mean, I tell you nice things because I want you to know you're smart or funny or talented, or pretty. I repeat them over and over so you always hear them from us and you never doubt that we meant them. I want you to recognize how awesome you are.
Emma (shifting uncomfortably)
I sighed. I'm still not sure exactly what it is, but I didn't want to push it any more.
Me: You're a horrible little girl and an embarrassment to the family.
Emma (smirking and looking up at me): Thank you, daddy.
Me: You're welcome, baby.