By Mary Jenkins
*Previously published here at PowerOfMoms.com
It was one of those mornings. The toast was burnt, the homework was lost, and I was desperately trying to comb my hair into submission so I would look decent enough to walk my daughter to the bus stop. As I threw on my “outside” sweats and an old college t-shirt, I looked in the mirror at my disheveled self.
My husband and daughter walked in, alerting me to the time. What then followed was something unforgettable, and to this day, I still ponder its meaning.
“Honey, the bus is going to be here soon. Are you ready?” my husband asked kindly.
“I know, I know, I’m just trying to find something that looks decent. My hair won’t cooperate, this shirt has holes in it, and these sweats! I’m such a mess!” I said.
Without missing a beat, my sweet girl piped up and said, “I’m a mess too!”
She said it with such enthusiasm and joy that it made my head whip around, and I was confused as to why she said it.
I responded,“Margaret, you are not a mess!”
Yet, she persisted, “No, I want to be a mess too!” Time seemed to stand still as I tried to process what had just happened.
Did my five-year-old know what being “a mess” meant? No, that much was obvious. So then why was it something she wanted to be? Then it hit me: Being a mess was something I had called myself. My daughter showed me such love in that moment as she told me she wanted to be just like me. If I called myself something, she thought it must be something good.
I have always heard that “kids are sponges.” They repeat everything they hear, the good and the bad. Even knowing that, I did not fully realize that the way I view myself and talk about myself is going to directly affect my children.
My daughter is at a stage where she does not always understand the negative things I say about myself, but at some point she will. I would never say some of the things I say to myself to my daughter, or to anyone else for that matter. Half of the time I don’t even mean it. So why is it okay to say it to myself? Is that what I want her to learn? Absolutely not.
This entire experience got me thinking, What DO I want my daughter to know? When she sees me standing in front of a mirror and pulls up a stool to stand with me, what do I want her to be thinking about? Since there are so many forms of “beauty” out there, should I be so focused on outer appearance?
To change negative-self talk, I came up with three specific, positive things to focus on when my daughter and I look in the mirror.
I learned a huge lesson on that busy morning, one that I think about often. Now when I begin to think something negative about myself, I immediately try to change it. I realize I am influencing my children’s perception of me, as well as their perception of themselves. My hope is that when my daughter is asked who she is, she will only have wonderful and positive things to say about herself.
Community Question: How do you teach your children about their worth and yours? Comment below!
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