Outgrowing Complements

I am blessed to be friends of all different varieties. Age, interests, nationality make the people in my world interesting. From people my grandparents’ age to four-and-a-half-years old, all are possible guests at my dinner table. One of my youngest friends, Cassie is an inquisitive, fearless young lady with a weakness for princess dresses and tea parties.

Last week, I was out for supper with Cassie, her mother, and a couple other friends to celebrate a birthday. Cassie’s afternoon play date with her best friend, Megan had unexpectedly gotten extended when, Megan’s father fell asleep on the couch after work and didn’t hear them knocking on the door.

After our food came, seafood pasta and thank-heaven-we-made-it-through-Monday drinks for most of the adults and mini-corn dogs for the little girls, everyone quickly set into their meal. Cassie and her friend begged to start with the gummy snack dessert, but were told that first they had to eat a bite of green beans for each of their years, and no, cutting a bean in half did not make it two bites.

I, having never been a huge fan of green beans myself, was glad I didn’t have to follow the same rule and once again said a quick ‘hallelujah’ for adulthood.

Cassie counted aloud each bite she took while Megan quietly polished of the rest of her green beans.

After bite number four, Cassie glanced at her friend’s clean plate and said “Wow! You’re a good eater!”

“I know. Thanks,” she replied, in that “no big deal” tone reserved for responses to complements so common place they hardly seem worth mentioning.

I know I used to be a good eater. Adults used to tell me that all the time, but it has been years and years since anyone even thought to mention it, which is a shame because if anything, I’m a better eater than I used to be.

I’ve braved and eventually learned to love spinach, sweet potatoes and avocados and while I still will politely turn down beets (they still taste like dirt), at least I’ve tried them, right?

When I was little, my family even had the “clean plate club.” Everyone in my family who cleared their plate got to do a little dance around the table while singing the “clean plate club” song — except my father who hasn’t danced since his wedding. A dance around the table was never enough to tempt him to break his record.

In retrospect, it sounds a little goofy, but at the time, getting to sing the “clean plate club” song was enough motivation to get me to eat one more bite of cooked carrots.

Yet for some reason, being able to eat well becomes less impressive once you’re past first grade and today, when I clean my plate, no one ever suggests a celebratory song.

Likewise, I haven’t heard “Look how much you’ve grown!” in a long time either. Which is good, I guess. Since I stopped growing upwards years ago, I would hate for my good eating skills to cause me to grow outwards instead and would like it even less if people insisted on mentioning it.

Although, perhaps as the shortest of my family, people decided commenting on my height might be rubbing it in a little too much. If my family were trees, I would be a shrub among aspens.

There are all sorts of things I used to get praised for that no one seems to find particularly impressive anymore.

I remember when I was in elementary school chatting with a friend about something and using a word with way too many syllables.

“You talk like Anne of Green Gables,” she said, probably in an exasperated tone.

I however, continue to treasure that as one of the best complements I’ve ever gotten.

Unfortunately, my peers eventually caught up to me and these days, my vocabulary sounds much like everyone else’s.

I used to be an outstanding dress twirler. As a little girl, I never would have guessed that a person would outgrow twirling dresses, and yet somewhere along the way, dress twirling became less impressive and now only my mirror gets to see a dress that is particularly twirl-ly.

I also got the “Opps, I forgot” award at school one year. Even at the time, I didn’t think being absentminded was particularly award worthy, but in an effort to praise each child about something at the end of the year, that’s what I got.

Thankfully, my attention span and my organization skills have improved remarkably in the last twenty years, and I should hope that I would no longer even be a contender for that complement.

Of course, there are plenty of other things I am glad aren’t complement worthy any more, but every once in a while I’ll hear something said to a toddler or preschooler and nostalgically remember the days when little things were dance worthy.

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  • I loved this blog! I’ll have to make sure to compliment you on cleaning your plate. I have no idea how ‘the clean plate club’ started, but it sure was fun! We’ll have to resurrect it again sometime.