Monday, August 2, 2010

Mothering Language

Me and Rog, family wedding, June 2010

Despite the fact that I can't seem to keep my house organized or my yard maintained (which fact is driving me crazy!), we are having a sweet summer. I find myself so enamored with sun kissed cheeks and watermelon juice dribbling down chins. I melt as I listen to Roger developing his vocabulary and watch Blaine become so independent. For someone who has historically had a hard time slowing down and just enjoying motherhood, I have felt blessed to slow down and revel.

Two months ago I reached a major low point in my mothering career. Then I had a paradigm shift that changed forever the relationship between my firstborn and me. And it's only because of my recent mistakes and the amazing changes that I have seen in my boy (and myself!) that I feel like I can say what I want to say today with any sort of authority or certainty--without sounding too audacious or know-it-all-ish.

I've been thinking a lot about the way we describe and label our children. And I think we need to be more careful. I think we need to be cautious of the way we think of our children, the way we speak to them, and the way we speak about them to others.

Here are some phrases I've caught coming out of my own mouth or have observed spoken by other parents:

(to a child)

"You always..."

"You never..."

(to others)

"He's my athlete."
"She's my brain."
"He's our artist."
"She's our sensitive one."
"He's just a naughty boy."
"He's always into trouble."

Of course, we can identify characteristics and talents (and even struggles) in our children, but thinking and speaking in such absolutes can be so detrimental. It can pigeon-hole our children and lead them to compare themselves to their siblings or others and draw negative conclusions about themselves.

I hear too many things like that. About small children and teenagers alike. I've said too many things like that. It's so harmful to our children and to us.

Maybe I'm getting too caught up in the semantics of it all, but I genuinely believe that we become who we are taught to become. I want my children to feel empowered and loved by everything I express to them (even if I'm doling out a punishment!). Language is powerful. I want to get mine right.

No comments: