His energy reminded me of a tightly coiled spring, overloaded with caffeine, bouncing on a trampoline. Of course, most 3-year-old children do not walk in an even, orderly, refined gait, and he was no exception — bouncing and bounding in a generally forward direction, yet so easily distracted by the zip and zing of the airport. Although secured to mom by a strap attached to this belt, she, pushing a stroller, periodically reached out and pulled the young boy closer as they walked and he strayed.
“Look,” she said as they climbed aboard the moving walkway connecting the terminals, “It’s a magic sidewalk. Let’s see where it goes!”
For an instant, the short redheaded lad analyzed the metallic, moving, pathway and — with some additional, gentle guidance from his mother — hesitantly moved on board, swaying a little and grabbing the moving handrails as he caught his balance. The young family stayed to the right so other, more hurried travelers, could pass.
“Him’s my baby brother,” the young man told everyone who walked past, pointing into the stroller. “His name is Lance.”
The scurrying line of travelers, tugging rolling suitcases behind them as they dashed to planes, showed a variety of responses. “He’s very handsome,” said a smiling, matronly woman with a floral design carry-on. “That’s nice,” commented a dapper-dressed man in a pinstripe suit, carrying a computer case. Many simply smiled; others ignored the small lad, caught up in their own thoughts or talking on cell phones.
When no one was in earshot, he studied Baby Lance, eventually reaching into the stroller and rearranging the blankets that covered his infant brother.
“Him shouldn’t be cold,” he told his mom. “He could get sick.”
Mom smiled and re-straightened the blankets, telling the young caregiver, “Thank you. You’re a wonderful brother. You take very good care of Lance. Do you know I’m very proud of you?”
He hugged her leg. She patted his head. The walkway rolled on, carrying the family off to their destination.
I was reminded of my own mother, who was taken by cancer 17 years ago. I was fortunate in so many ways to have her as my guiding light. Not only did she forever believe in what I could accomplish — even when I didn’t — but always found ways to be proud of me, and, as important, to tell me so. On our last conversation, the day before she died, her voice weak and raspy, she told me how proud she was to have known me and how much better her life was because of that. She closed the call with “I love you. I’ll see you tomorrow,” knowing I was flying down to be with her. She passed before I arrived but I am grateful to know how she felt.
With her gone, it dawned on me that we don’t hear, “I’m proud of you,” so much as we get older.
We are quick to condemn our errors — and reticent to take pleasure in our accomplishments, mistakenly translating pride of accomplishment with arrogance, and self-satisfaction with conceit. In a desire to be modest or humble, we oft-times sacrifice the awe and wonder in what we accomplish for the frustration and irritation of what we do not. If I slip, I do not focus on my previous successes; rather I rebuke myself with hateful internal dialogue: “Wow, you blew it! What an idiot!” Our self-talk is sometimes so painful that it would be labeled abusive — and rightly so — if said to anyone else.
It is foolish to disregard one’s flaws and ignore the lessons from our mistakes. Yet, I wonder what would happen if we more often told others — as well as ourselves — “I’m proud of you.” It might not make a difference, but I cannot believe it would harm anything.
Scott “Q” Marcus is a speaker and author. Since losing 70 pounds 23 years ago, he conducts speeches, workshops, and presentation. He also coaches individuals and consults with companies on how to implement and handle change. He can be reached at www.ThisTimeIMeanIt.com