When my husband and I met we never planned on marriage let alone kids. It’s funny how life sneaks in through the back door and gently redirects so many of the things you felt certain of. Every so often I catch myself in reflection and realize how thankful I am that all my plans were altered for the better. As my daughter rounds the corner to completing two trips around the sun, I see just how much I have learned from her in the short time we have been together. My biggest lesson of all has been around the power of words and how speaking intentionally to children, loved ones and ourselves can be enough to change any circumstance.
Fierce, courageous, intelligent, hilarious….there are not enough words to accurately capture the adoration I have for my daughter. She came into existence as a surprise and she has been the best teacher I have ever had. Here are just two of the things she helped me to realize as it relates to the importance of intentional speaking
Toddler Lesson Number 1: Kids Become What We Tell Them They Are
If I were to use the term copious to describe the research, articles, videos, and medical journals I consumed during my pregnancy to try and equip myself to raise a thriving human it would be an understatement. You know that fun insomnia that comes in that third trimester? Well, I used that time to try and prepare for motherhood because I was terrified to fall short. During one particularly long sleepless night I stumbled upon the idea that we should speak to our kids as if they are what we would like them to become because chances are, they will develop into some shade of this. As Claire has grown, I tell her daily that she is brave, strong, kind and smart. I remind her that she loves herself. We repeat this so frequently that before she goes down for nap every day she says, “Mommy say our words.” This melts my heart, but more importantly today I saw this work in action for the first time.
Claire has a rocking horse that until recently we have had to help her use because getting on can be a bit tricky. Since she has gotten taller, I encourage her to keep trying on her own. Sometimes she gets it, sometimes she falls. Today after a particularly rough go of it she hit the deck with a thud and scared herself to tears. I was ready to comfort her and to encourage her to try again when she picked herself up and said, “BRAVE” before cautiously attempting round two. Mamas, theoretically I knew the concept of speaking to our kids in this way made sense, but this one instance rocked me to my core. I realized that it is my responsibility to help my baby become confident. That starts with the way I speak to her.
Toddler Lesson Number 2: Never Say Anything to Yourself That You Would Not Say to Your Daughter
By now having learned about my insane research and obsessive tendencies you have probably already figured that I suffered from a wicked case of Post-Partum Anxiety. I mean the elephant on your chest, fear the world will somehow LITERALLY end if you forget to pack some imperative piece of baby gear in the diaper bag kind of anxiety. From maternity leave until Claire turned one, I spiraled, hard. I stressed about my role as a mom, wife, human every day. I felt terrible about the physical changes that I didn’t bounce back from and the picture-perfect existence that I couldn’t quite nail down. A day wouldn’t go by without me reminding myself in what areas of life I was sucking. This was ironic because as Claire’s development changed from baby to toddler, I was verbally encouraging her more every day. Those days of early walking (and falling), I wouldn’t have dreamed of calling her a loser and critiquing her the way I always did to myself. It hit me slowly then all at once like a ton of bricks. Brave mothers raise brave children. If I am going to successfully raise my daughter to have any semblance of confidence, I have to model that for her. If you know me you know I am still hard on myself and I still worry, but, I try. I have my daughter to thank for this incredibly valuable change in my life. I am a better person for it.
So, Claire, thank you for changing my world and for helping me to navigate parenthood thoughtfully and with intention.