My five-year-old, Maren, has been obsessed with favorites lately. “Mommy, you are my very best mom in the whole world,” she’ll say to me. I know she’s angling for a reply. Preferably something along the lines of, “And you, my most precious, are my favorite child on the planet.” The problem is, I have four other children, all of whom would be peeved to know I said Maren was my favorite, and Maren would delight in reporting the news right back to them.
So instead I respond with something like, “And you are my favorite five-year-old in this family,” which feels pretty lame coming from the very best mom in the whole world. But at least it will prevent civil war from breaking out in our household, which is something we always seem to be on the verge of these days, with the temperatures over a hundred degrees, and all of the kids cranky from watching too many hours of Netflix. In fact, I think they’ve watched a billion hours of Neflix this summer. They’ve probably watched more Netflix than any other kids in America.
Maybe not. But they have watched a lot of Netflix. And in our culture, where every reality tv show episode promises “the most dramatic moment in [insert show name here] history,” sometimes it feels like the only way so show strong feeling is to use a superlative. I can’t just tell my friend that I made a good batch of cupcakes for dessert last night. If I want to show just how good the cupcake was, I need to rename it “Shelah’s mind-blowing, mood-altering cupcake,” take a picture of it, and put it on Facebook, where my friends won’t just “like” it, they’ll “LOVE!” it. We need a “LOVE!” button on Facebook, don’tcha think?
The thing is, I grew up with a grandpa who took great pleasure in catching us saying something like “I love chocolate” (he owned a chocolate store), because he would pounce on us, saying “You can’t love chocolate because it’s an inanimate object.” Where chocolate is concerned, I beg to differ, but I get his point, too much praise becomes a form of faint praise. And I hear his voice in my head when I thank my son for doing “such an amazing job pulling the garbage cans up from the curb” (how hard is it, really?), or telling my baby that she is the “very most beautiful baby in the entire universe.” I hear his voice when I watch The Bachelorette and see Emily with a grimace on her face for an entire date pronounce her evening “AMAZING.”
So if you hear me saying that my kids are “fair to average piano players” or that my husband has “pretty nice” hazel eyes or that our dinner was “good enough to make again,” don’t think I’m lacking enthusiasm. I’m just trying to rein it in. I don’t want my kids to grow up thinking they have to be the biggest, best or most anything in order to be special to me. Besides, when something is really freaking awesome, I want to have the words to say that, and not waste my praise like the girl who cried wolf.
What do you think? Is it necessary, or even possible, to cut back on superlatives or am I just getting hung up on semantics? And, more importantly, can we get Chris Harrison to stop saying “AMAZING”?
Meanwhile, I’ll be checking in to hear what you have to say while
eating some absolutely magical cupcakes and watching the five billion hours of movies that are in my Netflix queue. With the five smartest, kindest, most beautiful children in the entire universe, of course. I’m having fun with my kids, watching movies and eating too many cupcakes.