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No More Gold Stars

Remember how gratifying it felt to receive a gold star on one of your school papers? It meant more than a job well done — it was public recognition to boot!

It all started in the first grade — I was one of the only kids in my class (my family was living in Puerto Rico at the time!) to understand how to manipulate the colored beads that represented tens, fifties and hundreds on the graph.  (In Espanola and in Ingles mind you!)  

My teacher was petite, loud and always full of praise.  I can’t tell you how many gold stars I earned in her class alone!

Fast forward to third grade — we had just returned from Puerto Rico and were now living in Rhode Island and for the first time in my life, I witnessed snow falling!  Talk about awesome!  Things were great in the Fifth Avenue Elementary School in Narragansett, where one of my favorite all-time teachers, Mrs. Knowles, kept me motivated and inspired.

For whatever reason, I was born to please.  Whether it was taking care of younger siblings, cleaning up my room, being the best friend one could have, earning high honors, taking my babysitting jobs as seriously as the parents themselves, I never wanted to disappoint.

Well, that’s not all.  Not only did I yearn to please, I also had an obsession with being recognized for anything and everything I did that would earn me a few brownie points.  (Just ask my mother and husband!)

Speaking of husbands — did I mention how great mine is yet?  But, still to this day, I love to be complimented on everything from restocking the toilet paper to the unbelievable feat of keeping popcorn leftovers out of our sheets when he’s away and I’m up until all hours watching reruns of The Big Bang Theory!  (Big sigh!)

And today with my awesome roles of mother, wife, writer, housekeeper, toilet unclogger, chef, chauffeur, volunteer, slayer of dust bunnies and oh… woman of  nearly 48 years of age — I still can’t believe I’m looking for those gold stars!

Just last week I managed to remove a wad of gum from my daughter’s gladiator sandals, get rid of two hornet nests under the garage eves, make two batches of perfect brownies (the ones that bake with the shiny, flaky glean on top), all while training the new puppy to tinkle outside and not on the new couch.  You’d think those perfect brownies would’ve at least earned a simple ooh or an ahh, but no — business as usual.

Then, I did the regular grocery shopping and saved nearly $50 in coupons.  What a high-five moment that was!  Not for anyone else in the family —nope, but someone sure was quick to point out that I bought the wrong kind of cheese.

Well, I was certain the laundry room makeover I recently pulled off would do the trick and earn me not only a gold star, but positive feedback about how efficient the new system I had created with the eight dividing laundry bags on wheels was. 

Forget it… “Mom, I can’t find my baseball pants, the ones without the holes, why aren’t they washed?” was all that spewed from those precious mouths that call this place home.

Finally, though, it happened — my desired gold star moment finally happened!  And you’ll never guess who the affirmation came from.  It wasn’t my handsome husband or one of my darling cherubs — it wasn’t my mother or one of my BFFs, it wasn’t one of the dogs (though I know if they could talk, they’d be praising me all day long!), no siree — the acknowledgement I got came from ME!

I’m no genius but I once I learn something, I take it and run with it.  Of course it feels great to get praised and acknowledged by others for my actions, but that’s not the reason I do these things in the first place — I do them because it feels so good to do something nice for someone else, even if it is unclogging the toilet so the next in line doesn’t have to deal with it. 

It really isn’t fair of me to expect those gold stars in life so often, with Mother’s Day coming this weekend, I’m going to gift myself a permanent gold star knowing that I don’t need anyone else’s approval and instead, I’ll try to look out for opportunities to give a few stars to others instead.

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