For years, posted on the fridge at my sister Lauren’s house was a name poem her daughter wrote for her in grade school. Name poems are where you write a name vertically on the left side of the page and then come up with a word or phrase for each letter; young kids tend to have great fun with this exercise.
Most notable about my niece’s name poem for Lauren, at least to me, was what Sophie came up with for the “U”: “Usually comes up with good alternatives.” Not being a parent in those days, I didn’t understand why that was such an asset, but once I had a preschooler of my own, I knew how much time parents spend trying to come up with appealing alternatives.
Sophie is now 18; it must have been more than ten years ago that she wrote that poem. Yesterday, for Mother’s Day, I received a name poem of my own from my 8-year-old, who chose to include not only my first and last names but middle initial as well. It was a thought-provoking peek at how Holly views me. And I must say that even though motherhood isn’t a competition, if it were, Lauren would beat me hands-down. Nothing I do according to Holly – nothing that starts with any of the letters in my name, anyway – can hold a candle to “Usually comes up with good alternatives.”
Here’s Holly’s, with editorial comments from me in brackets.
N – Not good at committing to watch Tim’s baseball games [True. But is that really necessary to bring up on Mother’s Day?]
A – Able to run a mile in 9:45 [True. Nothing to brag about except perhaps in geriatric circles, but true.]
N – Number 8 on a scale of life [Obvious question: what’s the scale’s range? Am I an 8 on a 1-10 scale, which sounds pretty good coming from one’s daughter, especially just a day after she was not allowed to order the two Japanese erasers she wanted from Amazon.com this weekend because although the erasers would cost $2.99, the shipping was another $13? Or am I an 8 on a scale of 1-100, which might be a more accurate reflection of how Holly felt following the Amazon/Japanese eraser disappointment?]
C – Courteous of others IF they are not in her family [Thanks for the clarification, Holly]
Y – Yells a lot [A natural follow-on to both of the two preceding letters, I suppose]
S – Sweet when in a good mood [Hey, thanks! A compliment! Sort of.]
W – Writer for the Boston Globe and others [Always reassuring to see that your kids know where your paycheck comes from]
E – Egg white attitude [Holly admitted at the time that she just felt like using this phrase and didn’t attach any particular meaning to it. I appreciate her lyrical aesthetic – and her commitment to using it.]
S – Scared of ticks [Yeah? So?]
T – Tender teeth [True. I suppose I’m lucky there’s no “R” in my name or she might have used “Receding gumline.”]
Ten phrases summing up Holly’s perspective on me. Certainly it could be worse. I’d love to know what ten phrases she’d use to describe me if they could start with any letters at all. (Quite likely many of the same ones, I suspect.) Trying to imagine how our kids see us is always an intriguing exercise. As a special Mother’s Day gift, I was able to get a glimpse. Scared of ticks. Dental sensitivity. Can’t follow through on the commitment to watch a baseball game.
Doesn’t sound like anything child welfare officials will be knocking on my door about. And yet there’s clearly room for improvement. I could try to yell less, be brave around ticks, boost my time in the mile up to the lower 9’s, and extend the same courtesy to people inside my family as those outside of it. Maybe doing all of those things would even boost my ranking on “a scale of life” over 8. It’s surely worth a try.