I have never been able to take a compliment. Usually I shrug it off with an "aw, shucks," or point out someone else who I think deserves the compliment more than me, or I counter it with some self-deprecating remark. Yes, humility is a good thing, but a little grace wouldn't hurt either.
This disinclination for praise carried over to compliments on my kids. I was always annoyed when someone would tell my mom how cute one of my younger siblings was and she would say, "thank you." It's not like they were complimenting her--or were they? I haven't come up with a better response, and often follow with a lame joke like, "Yeah, that's why they're still alive." Why can't I just say, "Yes! I have beautiful children. Thank you for noticing." Would that be rude or haughty or, worst of all, braggy?
When M started daycare and then preschool and school, his teachers would always exclaim about how good he was and I would find myself saying, "Yeah, he saves all his rottenness for home." Because he was (and still is) good as gold around other people, but at home I find myself tearing my hair out because he Just. Doesn't. Listen. And though I can understand that he needs that down time, after being so good all day, to just run wild and ignore me and do the opposite of what I ask, it still drives me Stark. Raving. Mad.
Today was awards day at M's school...I continue to have mixed feelings about things like grades and other "rewards," yet I couldn't help feeling a little giddy sitting there on the metal folding chair, watching each kindergartner go up to get his or her certificate, then the first graders, including M who got "Outstanding Achievement in Reading." Then I felt anxious as they went through the second graders--would M get recognized for second grade math?--the teacher called him up last and called him a "shining star." Then he got the one first grade award for outstanding achievement in music, and PE and art. At this point M held up his hand to me, fingers splayed, to let me know he'd gotten five awards.
As they began announcing the Wild Cat Award for all-around great kid, I almost hoped he wouldn't get it--worrying about how he might be perceived by the other kids (and yes, I admit it, the other parents) as the goody-goody or the teacher's pet, although the idea of the award is to single out the child who is helpful and welcoming and friendly with the other children. After he went up and got his red T-shirt and gold medal and the kids started to file out of the gym, he came over to show me all of his awards. "I got more than anyone else," he said and I said, "You did great," trying to de-emphasise the comparison to others.
As I walked out of the gym I passed the music teacher, who said, "It looks like M had a good year. He cleaned up. But he deserves it."
"Yeah, he's a good kid," I replied. And he is.