Children see. Children do.
My daughter turned two recently and her vocabulary skills are blossoming by the second. I feel like every day I wake up to a newer version of her. She is stringing along multiple words to make a full sentence, she’s eager to display her independence in the form of scaling our kitchen island to get to the jar of cookies and screaming at me and my husband if we dare think about holding the leash of our dog when we go on family walks because clearly that is my daughter’s unspoken responsibility that she takes very seriously.
In the past month or so I have noticed that she is on a kick of saying that things physically hurt her. It could be her finger hurting, her knee, her tummy or her head. Of course when she tells me something hurts I inspect it as any nurturing mother would to make sure nothing is seriously wrong, I kiss her “hurt” finger, some days I may put a band-aid on the invisible wound and then we carry on. She moves on, we move on, everything is fine.
Until she says it again…
I started to worry that something really might be wrong. I of course didn’t want to be overlooking anything and one of my worst nightmares as a parent is being passively neglectful of her needs.
As I sat and started to analyze our lives as I neurotically do, I started to observe a pattern in our household which I felt might be contributing to my daughter’s newfound expression of things “hurting.”
That being, that I suffer from pretty bad migraines a few times a month. Additionally, I can’t really remember a day where I don’t have some kind of nagging pain in my neck or shoulders. For personal reasons, I don’t take pain medication & I try really hard to manage my discomfort with natural remedies. Unfortunately, though my family often hears me talking about my head hurting, me feeling tired from the pain, my shoulders hurting etc.
And then it dawned on me.
I think my daughter is repeating what she hears me saying.
*Enter Mom Guilt here.
I could be totally wrong but what if I’m right? Lord knows I want my child to come to me if she is in pain and I don’t want her feeling like she needs to hide parts of herself that is causing her discomfort but I also don’t want my child’s inner dialogue or narrative to start forming from a place of constantly hearing about pain and discomfort that isn’t hers to experience.
After this realization or “hunch” I have about where all this “pain speak” is coming from, I asked my husband to support me in not speaking so freely about our common day annoyances like stress migraines and what not in front of our daughter. He agreed. We both have made a mindful commitment to the words we choose to say around our daughter as well as our behavior as we do not want certain things indefinitely rubbing off on her.
This can easily be applied to everything we do in our lives that children bear witness to. It’s our relationship with food, it’s how we clean or don’t clean our home, it’s how we treat others, it’s how we treat ourselves, it’s our relationship with our bodies, our hobbies, the people we hang out with and bring around our family, it’s how we manage our stress, our anxiety, how we express our happiness, it’s how we speak about ourselves…the list goes on and on. It can be as simple as an annoying habit like cracking our knuckles (I do this) or something as significant as how we treat animals.
Point is, our children are watching our every move and internalizing everything we are involuntarily and voluntarily showing them.
My exercise for everyone who is reading this that have an influence on children is to take note of the words that are coming out of our mouths. Those words could be something so insignificant to you but may start forming as something significant to them.
Now I just gotta work on hiding my tweezers and privately plucking my stubborn chin hairs without anyone seeing.
Thanks for reading, friends!