it’s probably not a good idea to read this post if you’re in a bad mood, because i’m going to say a lot of really nice things about my kids, and that seems to irritate a lot of people.

it seems very in vogue to trash talk kids in general, and one’s own kids in particular. adults freely lament “kids today” right in front of those very kids, and think nothing of making withering comments that disparage an entire generation while representatives of that very generation are in the room. kids of all ages get this special treatment, but teenagers seems to get the brunt of it.

“teenagers are so lazy. i can barely get mine off the computer. they’re such slobs. they’d live like animals if we’d let them. teens are so mouthy it’s disgusting; do you hear the music they listen to? i’ll be glad when my teen leaves home- if i survive that long (said with a sick smile)…” on and on they go, seemingly oblivious to the damage they cause word after word after word.

my own mother was particularly fond of this game. although she hated me at every age, she was especially full of vitriol as i approached my teen years. every comment was a jab, but most of them were said to others about me while i stood idly by, not usually to me. i guess that was further proof of just how insignificant i was; i didn’t even merit direct scathing comments- only indirect biting remarks. in spite of her best efforts, though, i survived with some semblance of sanity and an intact soul and now i have kids of my own.

an you know what? they are really great people.

i really really love them.

not just parent love them.

not just, “oh look: her socks don’t match and she’s plucked out all her eyebrows, but isn’t she just a cutie pie anyhow??” love.

not just, “yes, he does bite kids on the playground, and he did pour battery acid in the teacher’s coffee, but he’s still our pookie face….” love.

but i love them as people. i love them as individuals. i love them as characters and as human beings with personalities and traits and quirks.

i love that my oldest son is calm under pressure and he thinks he knows all there is to know and he’s thought that since he was 3 years old. i love that he will tell it like it is and he will skip your party and miss a day of work without calling in but he will spend 9 hours trying to save a dying kitten or a kid in trouble. i love that he’s like 6’2 and built like a football player but will still laugh so hard he gets tears in his eyes and still got down on one knee to propose to his fiancee. he can slam around playing hockey for hours on end but at his engagement party he spent hours holding his brother-in-law’s baby. i love that kid!

i love that my oldest daughter has written a novel at the age of 16. i love that she spent a week dosed up on caffeine editing and revising so she could enter it into a contest and she’s got the spunk and the moxy to just go ahead and put it out there, and i’m not just saying this because she’s my daughter- it’s really really GOOD! i love that she wants to help deliver babies and that she researched the heck out of it before she decided and that she is willing to facilitate whatever birth her clients want (unlike me, who would be a total hard— and try to force my agenda down their throats…). i love that she is gentle but SO strong, and calm but SO assertive, and smart but SO willing to learn. i love that she is truly interesting to talk to, and she has ideas of her own, and she is just a cool person. she’s the kind of person i would have wanted to get to know when i was her age and i am glad i get to know now. i love that kid!

i love that my next daughter is so kind. she is goodness personified. she is who i wish i could be, and who i pray to be more like. she is the go-to person to do anything that needs to get done when nobody feels like doing it. she’s a rock, even when she doesn’t much feel like one. she’s dependable and solid and patient and sweet- SO sweet- she’s the person i think i would be most jealous of if i was her age. she’s got the whole package and because i’m her mother i know that she works hard at it- but she makes it look so easy, and that’s no small trick. she’s the kid who’s willing to do the heavy lifting to keep the house running and the family happy (as long as it doesn’t involve dirt). she’s the rock star and she’s probably the person who would think she least deserves the praise. i love that kid!

i love my goofy son who knows how to keep the atmosphere light and the mood happy. even when i want to whack his head off, he knows how to cut the tension. he’s great with kids, great with technology, great with learning anything he sets his mind to. he’s the one who will find the solution to any problem that involves the least amount of work- often to the chagrin to the one who set the task, but he’s the type of innovator to make a zillion dollars finding a better way to make a widget. he’s manly when he needs to be manly, but he can be so kind and nurturing when he needs to that i know he’ll make a great husband and father. he’s always the kid other kids think is cool, and he can find his niche in any crowd. he knows how to find the humor in any situation and he’s the person people love to be around. i love that kid!

i love my sweet and gentle son too. he takes after *h, and he just wants everyone to be happy. he will try his hardest, even when his heart isn’t in it. he’s the bridge in our family between older kids and younger kids, and especially when we have guests, he’s the one who goes between the two groups to make sure everyone is ok. he takes care of people and checks in to see how you are. he wants you to be well and he wants to help facilitate that. he has a crazy smart math brain that i can’t understand, but from the time he was little bitty he’s asked us to give him math problems to solve in his head. he’s great with our chickens, our grandmas, our neighbors, our errands, our household jobs, and our miscellaneous requests. he’s the most tolerant of everyone’s moods and the most stable in the face of instability. he’s just NICE personified. i love that kid!

and the baby. what can i say about the baby? well, she’s not a baby any more… she’s big now, but not too big to tolerate lots of hugs and kisses and extra stories at bedtime and snuggling and perhaps the odd treat or two surreptitiously given behind the backs of her siblings. she’s cute and she knows it, which may be dangerous later on, but i’m not quite ready to face that particular pitfall. she’s smart and charming (how come that word is never really used for girls?) and talkative and inquisitive and very youngest-of-the-family. she has very specific opinions on everything from what tights to wear to which predator in africa is the most interesting. she is currently writing her own novel- in a flowered notebook, and using a calligraphy pen, of course… none of us is sure what it’s about yet, but i’m sure it will be quite fascinating. i had a friend who was discussing babies and said, “you should treat every baby like the first.”- meaning you should take lots of photos, capture every moment, etc.. and the person she was talking to said, “no, you should treat every baby like your last.” – meaning you should really pay attention to every nuance and savor every moment because you know these moments won’t come around again. and that’s how it is with this youngest child. every accomplishment is a milestone worthy of a plaque and a parade. she’s awesome in her own right, but being the last gives us just a bit more time to dwell on it. what can i say- i love this kid!

so parent of the world- i’m sorry if your kids irritate the life out of you. please believe me that mine do too. but also know that when kids “overhear” you praise them it builds them up x1 million. and when they overhear you tear them down it wrecks them x1 billion. by all means, vent when you need to. just make sure you have the privacy you think you do. we all need to blow off steam. we aren’t perfect and neither are our spouses or our kids. they compain about us, and we might need to complain about them. but please please please, let them “catch you” praising them. throw them a bone. cut them a break. all day long they are with people who will judge them and belittle them and test them and quiz them and peer prssure them and tell them a thousand ways they don’t measure up. so be the balm on their wounds. be the good guy in their world. be the smile on their lips as they fall asleep tonight. please- love those kids!