What’s the best compliment you could receive as a parent?
That your children are well behaved?
That they are polite or do well at school?
That they are sporty or nicely presented?
But what compliments do you actually get? When you think back.. are they like the ones I hear?
My four-year-old daughter asked me the other day why people always talk about her hair?
She has apricot coloured ringlets. She hates them but strangers feel an urgent need to touch them, to talk about them, to compliment me about them... (when really I had no say in them whatsoever).
Oh her hair is so lovely, they say.
When it comes to my sons, people compliment me about their long dark eyelashes and their dark hair as though I spent all night crafting them from silken thread.
What I find about most compliments is that they are driven from my children’s appearance.
Spend any time in a Facebook mother's group and you will realise that compliments are rare amongst mothers these days.
Instead, we focus upon pulling each other down, sniping.
But do you ever wonder what mums really want to hear?
Well here is a start - there are a few things.
You are doing a good job.
Your children are kind.
Your children are positive.
But it wasn’t until a chance encounter with a stranger the other day when I realised what the greatest compliment of all was for me.
Now this is one happy baby. (Post continues after video)
We had passed each other on the way through a playground.
Another mother and I.
That complicated weave you do when pushing a bike and juggling a scooter and trying to hurry your children through without letting anyone else’s tearaways escape.
She was carrying a newborn in a sling and she watched me as my unruly lot careered into the playground.
My boys carried sticks as boys do. They were dirty as little boys often are after spending an hour barrelling around in a muddy park. Faces with traces of their last snack. Hair wild. Pushing each other. Shoving. Laughing.
She glanced at me as we passed and stopped. She began to speak.
My first thought was fear. Had we woken her baby? Were my children too loud? What was she about to say?
"You have very happy children." And she moved on.
That’s the compliment we want, isn’t it?
It’s the fear that keeps us up late at night? Is my child happy at school? Was she happy today? Am I doing enough to make her happy?
There are times, of course, when my children aren’t overjoyed or enthused. There are times when they don’t get their way and they are foot-stampingly frustrated at life.
There are times when they hate-it-all and cry at the injustice of their parents.
But overall, they are happy.
What I hope is that this is the attribute about my children that will continue to shine through. That this is the compliment I get more of (and less of the pretty dress and great shoes).
I know it seems simplistic. I know I should have loftier ideals, I know that maybe in those tough teenage years I will just be hoping for resilience or kindness.
But right now, while my children are young, while the sound of their laughter gives cause to a stranger to remark, that’s enough.
That is the best compliment you could give me.
What is the best compliment you could receive as a mother?