I can remember the first time someone said those two words to me. I was 23, halfway around the world, young, wanting to learn, not trusting myself to be all I wanted so desperately to be. The person saying those words to me was my then to-be husband, but I remember thinking to myself, No one has ever said that to me before.
I find that hard to believe, but I must. If I trust my memory, no one had ever said to me before these two simple words.
It wasn’t that I wasn’t ever right. There were plenty of occasions when I knew I was and certainly, if we’re talking about school, I was pretty close to a straight A student. So it’s pretty clear to me that I had been “right” at least on occasions that mattered.
But in an argument? When my opinion was asked in general? When something I had predicted came to pass, I never heard the verbal acknowledgment.
There are cultural issues here, of course, that cannot be ignored. People from India, in general, at least in the area I come from, are not given to open praise, so I’m not blaming my parents. And I’m certainly not saying that my life was ruined because of it. My parents did their best and I know it.
But I must admit that there is much power in words. And in these two words, there is more than meets the eye. Each and every time I have told my daughter that she was right, there has come over her the most curious look – a look I can only describe as self-worth.
Then one day, I heard her say to me, “You were right, mom.” And then another day, she told her brother, “You’re right.” And then my husband.
Apparently, we were doing a lot right and she was on a rampage to tell us so.
With those 2 words, something between us shifted. There was an acknowledgement of the awareness of another’s wisdom – no small feat in a world where everyone wants to be right but no one wants to listen to anyone else’s point of view. It changed my perception of her.
With those two words, she grew up a little and was no longer my baby.
Then I heard it among the children – that same quiet reminder of the other’s wisdom, an awareness of it, even in the midst of strife, a camaraderie that could come from nowhere else.