“You’re Pretty, Mommy.”

Lately Niko has been giving me kind compliments. “I like your hair, Mommy,” he’ll say, petting me gently as if I’m a shaggy-haired dog. Sometimes he’ll tell me out of the blue, “I like you!” or ” I love you soooo much!” Or, “You smell so good!” he’ll tell me as he lays his head on my shoulder for a hug. The last time he pulled that particular one out, I hadn’t managed to get a shower for about three days and was sweaty and dusty after sweeping, mopping, and vacuuming the house, so I think he has a long way to come as far a distinguishing a good human smell from a less marvelous one. But the thought is sweet, anyway.

A couple of days ago, he announced, “I think Daddy should bring you some pretty flowers when he comes home.” (Aaron was on a business trip.)

“Really?” I asked. “Why do you think that?”

“To show you how much he loves you,” he explained. “Because he loves you lots.”

It made me think. Kids Niko’s age, while they’re working on establishing a personal identity, are still little imitators. Niko’s sweetness and kindness weren’t created in a vacuum. His outpouring of love to me is in direct imitation of his dad. And it’s dawning on me that this is, in fact, a gift to me from my amazing husband.

When I fix Niko a just-right sandwich and he says, “OH! Thank you, Mom! That is so nice of you to make me a sandwich!” I realize that he’s been paying attention to his dad, who thanks me every single time I serve a meal…even if it’s burnt. Or late. (Or both.) Even if he’d have done it better himself. Every time.

When Niko gives me those sometimes inaccurate compliments on my hair or the way I smell, it’s because he hears his dad say the same thing. “Your mom is so beautiful, isn’t she?” Aaron will say to Niko, and Niko answers, “Yes! You’re pretty, Mom!”

Or Aaron might say to Niko, “Your mom is really special. I love her a lot. Do you love her too?” And Niko says, “I love you soooo much, Mom!”

So when my son gives me these funny, adorable compliments, it’s because his dad is teaching him how to express love and admiration. His dad is teaching him that love shouldn’t be hidden away. And in doing so, my husband is giving me the gift of a quirkily loving child.

I couldn’t think of any better gift.

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