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Smart, But Not Funny

September 15, 2006

Do we really want to know what people think about us? Do we want to know what our kids think? I'm not so sure.

 

My daughter brought home a packet of papers from her first week in first grade last week. I scanned them at the kitchen table absentmindedly as I ate my dinner. It was 9:00. I was still in high heels, and I was dead-tired.

 

But suddenly, through the fog of my working-mother-induced-coma, something caught my eye. She had written a story about her family members and their attributes, or in my case, lack of attributes.

 

There it was, written in the awkward and exaggerated way beginning writers print letters on thinly lined paper, exactly what she thought about me.

 

"My mother isn't funny, but she is smart," read her words.

 

I pondered this for a minute. I was thrilled that she thought of me as smart, but the fact that she thought I wasn't funny threw me. The fact that a six-year-old would even ponder the question of her mother's humor brought me to tears, the joyful kind. I thought it was the cutest thing she had ever written.

 

"So, I'm not funny?" I asked her when she got up the next morning.

 

"No, not really, but you're smart. Remember, I said that," she said, clearly feeling embarrassed and not wanting to talk about it anymore.

 

In fact, she was mortified when I told her I wanted to frame it. When I tried to read it to her grandfather over the phone she grabbed it out of my hand and ran out of the room.

 

Tuesday, there was an open house at my daughter's school. I pulled up the little chair with her name neatly printed on the back preparing for the first grade teacher's presentation.

 

On the table was a new story that she had written about her family. "My mother is the best," read the first line.

 

To be honest, it made me a little misty-eyed. I imagined it was redemption for the earlier story, but it was an unnecessary atonement. Whatever she thinks of me is okay, just as long as she thinks of me.

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