One of the more interesting things found tucked away within Charlie’s backpack a day after Valentine’s Day was a large pink heart-shaped piece of paper.
Charlie: Oh you found that? It’s a Compliment Heart…which we did on Valentine’s Day. Everyone had to write a compliment on each student’s heart in class.
Cassie: Charlie, this is so neat!
Charlie: Not really.
Charlie: I wrote things like how people are smart, or pretty, or funny on their hearts. A lot of people wrote that I was “talkative.” That’s not really a compliment. “Talkative”…..pfffft.
Cassie: I see other comments like “You’re a nice friend” and “Looking good.”
Charlie: Of course N—– is going to say I’m a nice friend because he’s part of the posse. We’re like brothers, Mom. And the girl who wrote “Looking good” then wrote “LOL” after…like it’s a joke. That’s not really a compliment, that’s an insult.
Cassie: There are some comments about how smart you are, I see.
Charlie: Yeah, I guess. A few. Way more comments about how I’m “talkative.” (He makes the quote signs with his fingers.)
Cassie: I see just as many about how funny you are. Does it hurt your feelings a little that so many of your class mates perceive you as quite a talker?
Charlie: Not really. It’s definitely a true thing about me. But this wasn’t supposed to be a Valentine’s Day heart with TRUTHS. It was supposed to be full of COMPLIMENTS. That one girl, N—-, she wrote “Vary good at not lissening.” She is incredibly annoying to me and she can’t spell.
Cassie: What did you write on her heart?
Charlie: I don’t remember. No, really, Mom. I don’t think I wrote anything on her heart because I didn’t have anything nice to say to her. What a pain!
Cassie: I notice that you’re starting to care what people think of you, Charlie…way more than you ever seemed to care before. Me thinks YOU are growing up. (Pause) Well, I agree that some of these truthful observations are not really compliments, but it’s interesting feedback. Constructive criticism.
Charlie: That’s not what you do on Valentine’s Day. Criticism. Only three people said I was smart. (Pause.) I’m VERY smart.
Cassie: Yes. And confident.
Charlie: Like I know the difference between a criticism and a compliment. I wrote a lot of nice things on everyone else’s hearts and I only get three “smarts.”
Cassie: Sometimes Valentine’s Day is not all it’s cracked up to be. It can fall short of expectations, you know? Let’s count how many compliments on how funny you are.
Charlie: I AM funny.
Cassie: You are.
Charlie: And smart.
Cassie: Yep. Maybe if you’re a little quieter, others will start to notice just how smart you are.
Charlie: YOU talk a lot, Mom.
Cassie: I know. I do. And it’s not always such a good thing, is it? Sometimes it’s better to listen. To be quiet. To think. To be smart…quietly. To just be. (Pause) I’m forty-six years old and I’m still learning to quiet down. You’re only nine. Imagine the power of starting to learn a wisdom like that at such a young age!
Charlie: Mom, you’re talking too much.
Cassie: Ha, ha, ha. Very funny. Do you want me to put this in your Valentine’s Day Card box?
Charlie: Guess so. I can look at it some day when I’m older… AND FAMOUS FROM ALL MY TALKING and it’ll make me laugh.