Published at Brain, Child on February 26, 2015.
“You’re beautiful,” my daughter says to a sixty-something waitress with a halo of wild gray curls. The waitress looks tired and worn. The compliment seems to take her by surprise, as if it unsettles her. She pauses, tentatively smiles, and murmurs a hushed “thank you.” When a five year old offers a compliment, you take it, even if it doesn’t resonate. You say, “thank you.” You smile. Maybe, you even offer a compliment back. The child says, “you’re welcome” with bright smile. Sometimes, she just nods and grins mischievously.