08/22/2012 04:40 pm ET Updated Oct 22, 2012

Salute a Teenager

"Which one's yours?" I asked the band mom standing next to me during a break in the not-quite-rained-out concert. She smiled and pointed to her son.

Oh! "We love him!" I told her. I'd been enjoying this trumpet player all year. He was a standout in a group of standouts. Every one of those kids had passion, with class. This one oozed exuberance. Even moving his microphone stand was a performance. Everything was more fun with his antics in the background.

I waxed appreciative to his mother and said while I would've loved to tell him this, I didn't want to embarrass him. He is, after all (drum roll please) a teenager.

She smiled again. "We all like praise," she said.

So... noted.

After the concert I gave the young man a quick summary of what I'd told his mom. I hadn't intended on using the word "spunk." It just slipped out. But my little speech was three sentences, tops. And from the look on his face, it was two and a half sentences too many. Good thing our own teenager wasn't within earshot. You wouldn't be reading this. I'd still be recovering.

Some people can't wait to pass along the latest bad news. I feel guilty if I hear -- or notice -- good news and don't pass that along. You have to know your audience, though. I didn't. Next time I'll toss off a quick, "We really enjoy listening to you play!" Or whatever. If I get the feeling elaboration is in order, elaborate I will.

But I won't be holding my breath.

I will, however, be changing my mind. Right here, right now, in as much time as it takes you to read this sentence -- and with thanks to my husband. "Just because the kid didn't act like he wanted you to continue," he told me, "doesn't mean he didn't appreciate what you said." Pause. "I bet it made an impression."

I remembered something, and decided something else.

I remembered I was probably 30 years old before I started accepting compliments by saying, brightly, "Thank you!" You know, instead of downplaying whatever it was. Instead of arguing with the compliment giver.

I decided that telling someone how much you appreciate him is okay, even if you offer specifics. Especially if you offer specifics. Just because he doesn't tell you "please, go on" doesn't mean he isn't glad you did.

Meanwhile I'll be glad I did.