When I was a kid there were two things my parents did that I thought were pretty cheesy.
Some of my friends got monetary rewards for good grades, but in our house great report cards and special awards brought only my parents' warm congratulations, plus a bonus: what I came to mentally refer to as my dad's "We Love You No Matter What" speech. "Arwen, we're very proud of you for [getting straight As, winning the spelling bee, earning first chair in the symphonic band] but I hope you know that your achievements are not the reason we love you, and that we'll always be proud of you and love you no matter what, because you're our daughter and you're precious to us."
I was a couple times frustrated (that report card would have earned me $50 at Crystal's house, and all it got me at home was a hug and a speech) and a few times embarrassed (you know how adolescents can be with expressions of affection from their parents) by this, but by the time I was in high school I'd realized I had it pretty good. Some of my friends' parents didn't trust them at all, and constantly accused them of doing things they would never have dreamed of doing. My parents trusted me, and loved me, and if they were fond of declaring it - well, what was the harm in that?
The other cheesy thing was one of my mom's habits. She's never played favorites among us kids, but for as long as I can remember she's played a favorites game with us that goes like this: each child is always the favorite of any particular categories he or she alone occupies. We've all taken a turn over the years being the favorite seven-year-old, the favorite ten-year-old, the favorite fifth-grader. I was the favorite high-schooler until my sister's freshman year, after which I became the favorite upperclassman until I graduated, at which point I became the favorite college student. I've always been the favorite oldest child, Rosie's always been the favorite second child, and so on.
In my grumpy and somewhat cynical youth I may have rolled my eyes at Mom's declarations, but there was method to her madness. Some of my friends felt like their parents would have gladly traded them for kids who were smarter, more disciplined, better-behaved; I always knew that, given the chance to pick any kids in the world, my parents would pick us. Not because we were the best, brightest, sweetest people out there (although of course we were) but simply because we were theirs.
The challenges of parenthood are varied and confounding but if there is one of them that keeps me awake at night it is this: Bryan and I have the job of teaching Camilla what love is, and the job of showing her that she is worthy of it. If we mess that up, nothing else we do as parents will be worth much.
Thank God (literally) for grace, is all I have to say about that.
There have been times in my life when I have thought that my parents' repeated words of love were, like, so unnecessary. They were my parents! I knew they loved me! Why did they feel the need to say it all the time?
I eventually realized that it was only unnecessary because they had said it so many times, only remained unnecessary because they continued to say it, early and often and without a single thought to the embarrassment they might have been causing me.
I will be happy, even proud, to embarrass my daughter many times over if in doing so I can manage to give her what my parents gave me: the assurance that she is valuable and worthy of love simply because she is herself.
(Mom and Dad: I love you too.)