With mirth and laughter let old wrinkles come. –William Shakespeare

There are many lovely things about my daughter, but one of my favorites is her unfailing generosity with compliments.  If I put on a new dress, or try a new shade of lipstick, I can be sure that Cate will not only notice, but also sing my praises. It’s true, she’s a little on the obsessive side with the compliments and, really, all things “girly.” Her favorite past-times are trying on high heels and makeup, she frequently refuses to wear any color except pink, and she wept openly when I cut off my long hair. I’ve been concerned that she will grow up thinking a person’s worth is all connected to their appearance, so each time she compliments the way someone looks I go out of my way to point out their terrific qualities or potential greatness NOT related to appearance.

Sample conversation: Cate-“Mommy, this Barbie is so pretty in this pink dress.”    Me-“I wonder if Barbie likes to read poetry. Do you think she prefers Shakespeare or John Donne?  Did you hear that Barbie was instrumental in sealing the deal with Strawberry Shortcake? She’s got a real business head on her, that one.”

My commentary is usually met with a blank stare, but by now I’m used to all my children looking at me like that.  Still, I persist. I do not want my daughter’s only redeeming quality to be that she can easily recognize if something or someone is “pretty.”

And then came the day that I realized the intrinsic worth of her 4-year-old shallowness.  As I began the morning ritual of detangling and brushing out Cate’s long hair, I happened to glance past my daughter’s beautiful face and catch my own reflection. There seemed to be a piece of hair stuck horizontally across my forehead. I reached up to detach it, except it did not come off. Because it was not a hair stuck to my face; It was a very deep WRINKLE.

As I stood pondering the fact that I now had the deepest, most noticeable, awful wrinkle in the world stamped across my forehead, I heard my daughter say, “Mommy, you look so pretty.”   I did not begrudge her the compliment, and I couldn’t help pointing out that she is a very smart little girl.

Perhaps being over-complimentary is not the best trait in the world, but knowing WHEN to compliment is brilliance.

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