Growing up, we had this plate.
I relished getting this plate. I looked forward to dinner to see who received the red orb of greatness but more so to hear why. This red beacon of remarkableness that was a coveted treasure when arriving at the dinner table any given evening of the week. If it was at your seat, you were special that day.
My Mom was a list maker. She would grocery shop for the week as she had planned meals ahead of time. She would have a home made meal on the table every evening, except maybe a Friday or Saturday, when we got pizza or Chinese take out or something fun so she wouldn’t have to cook. My point is, she was a planner.
She thought about things. She would sit every morning doing her quiet time and after that she would make lists. She would cross things off as she went, whether it be grocery shopping or just tasks that needed to be done around the house. I can still see her handwriting, unlike any other I’ve ever seen, along with the big “x” she would make over the items she could gleefully cross off when finished.
Like most things my Mother did, I never really understood the profundity of this plate until I grew up and gained some sense of appreciation for all she did. I’ve learned that it doesn’t just happen, this making your kids feel special. It needs to be created and worked at and gleamed out of your soul onto something as simple as a dinner plate.
My mom would use it for, well, special occasions. It wasn’t that we weren’t special to her every day, but it was saved for a celebration on any given day. Not only would my brother or I get to eat off the special plate for dinner, but occasionally – if memory serves me right – my parents even got to celebrate their victories with the red beaming in behind the chicken and green bean casserole.
A spelling test. An A or B or even C on a paper that we worked so hard on. Landing a role in the school play. Scoring a goal in the soccer game. Navigating a social issue at school or church or the skating rink with particular aplomb.
It wasn’t always about getting a good grade. Many times it was about our attitude. Our spirit.
I wasn’t one to always get good grades. I had to work really hard and even then my grades didn’t necessarily reflect my effort. My brother on the other hand, didn’t really have to work very hard and still got good grades. So he was rewarded in other more challenging areas for him. My mom knew. She knew and appreciated the differences in her two kids. She knew our hardships and our victories. She celebrated the stuff that was truly difficult for us, and not just the lobbed over the net certainties that were assured to us before we even left the house that morning.
Now there were days we were not special, and that’s OK. That was a good lesson for me to learn. Some days I sucked. Some days I failed. I didn’t work as hard on a project as I could have. I didn’t study hard enough. I didn’t face that challenge with a schoolmate the way I could have and I let myself down or my parents down. That’s all part of growing up. You aren’t special all the damn time. If we don’t learn that as kids, it sure as hell sucks to learn it as adult. You are not special every day. Big whoop. It makes the days that something magical happens even better.
There were plenty of days when nobody ate off the plate. And that’s just fine.
Now that I’m a mom, I have my own You are special today plate. I asked for it for Christmas and it’s fitting that I received it from my Mother-in-Law. That whole Village thing, ya know? Having twins, I understand that I’m going to have to work a bit harder to make my boy and my girl feel special in their own way. Not just together. They will experience many similarities through their young lives, but they are two very unique little people, and I want to celebrate that. So we have ONE plate. We will have many celebrations and many days that will just be mundane.
Something as simple as a dinner plate sure left quite an impression on this 40-year-old woman. I’m hoping that it does the same for my children. I will celebrate their efforts and their kindness. Their being nice when everybody else was being mean. Their going out of their way to befriend a new kid. Their giving somebody part of their lunch because that kid didn’t have enough. And when they don’t show this effort or compassion, we will not celebrate. They will know the difference.
While my kids will never fully understand how special they are to me every single day because how could they – it’s too much – I will do my best to make them feel utterly and completely secure in my love and support even when they aren’t at their best, even when they fail and I’m disappointed in them.
I want them to understand that they are not at their best every single day – nobody is – and that’s OK.
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