In the work of being a mom, I have come to recognize, with increasing awareness, just how important the messages I send my children are. This happens in three distinct and different ways. The first being with my words. The worlds I choose to use with my children send I would say some of the clearest messages. This for me has been the easiest place to adjust course, make corrections and stay clear with. For example, using the word YES a lot more and sorry a lot less. If I can take a second to catch my breath before responding to a situation I can connect with my intention in order to deliver the verbal message I am wanting to share as opposed to the new jerk reaction words. Words are powerful. They can cut a person down fast and hard. And they can also lift up a situation with grace and compassion. The moment I take to find the right words is the moment I decide time and time again that the relationship I have with my children is worth the sorts of words that deliver love and understanding.
The second area where my messages call out LOUD and clear, perhaps even louder and clearer then my words is in my actions. I find this to be a more challenging area to adjust then the words. It’s that age old saying, “actions speak louder then words.” I’m gonna break this one down in to two different groupings. The first grouping being body language. It does me and my children a huge disservice if I deliver open words with stiff closed off body language. “Yes, let’s eat pie for dinner,” is less happy when delivered with frown lies and a sigh of despair. Making sure my body language is as open and loving as my words happens in the breathing moment I spoke of. It does sometimes mean I need to take an extra deeper breath. For I can often fool my mind in to shifting directions faster and more slyly then I can my body. My body holds on to resentment and frustration for longer periods of time. But the hug I give while holding on to that is a rigid one an offers up little in the form of loving understanding. So while taking the breath, I also find the space to drop in to my heart, to really feel the words I am about to say. And sometimes this takes a bathroom break, or a shot of whiskey to really make happen. But I find the pause taken to align my body language with my words is is far less damaging then a poorly delivered message.
The second piece of my actions speaking louder then words is in the way I treat myself. This part of the equation took me far longer to understand then I might like to admit. Whether it be my steps to self care, the personal goals I set or the way I treat others around me, these messages are speaking volumes to my children. They are watching to see how to be a person in the world. And as important as it is for me to care for their needs, it just as important for me to show them how I care for me own. You see one day they are going to be adults in a busy world. They are going to have choices to make about how to get what they want out of life and how to balance themselves in relationship to others. Yes, part of that comes from the way I treat them. But another part of that comes from them witnessing me in the world. When I find ways to tend to my own self care, I say loudly that I am worth caring for. Through goal setting, adjusting, overcoming and achieving I show my children the process of knowing what you want and going about getting it. When I offer to help a fellow shopper lift a heavy item in to their car, I am sharing one small example of how to be be in the world in relationship with others. I am not saying that they way I am doing or being about these decides how my children will do or be in the world, I am simply offering them examples of the opportunities they have. They will drink it in and make the decisions that sit best with them. My actions are out there for them to consider. So I wanna be aware of what those actions are saying.
The final part of this discussion is by far the most challenging. The message I send when I don’t act at all. I feel like this is potentially the most damaging message I can send my children. This is the place where things get messy and I stand to loose the most. When I am in a locker room and a group of boys and dads are making jabs, or comments that portray girls are women as less equal then men, I have an opportunity to act or to not act. And how I use that moment can send a rather large message not only to my children but to the other children in the room. It doesn’t need to be a loud and confrontational exchange. It can be as simply as asking, “why is it less appealing to be a girl?” This question itself stops the conversation and forces everyone to consider their word choices (which takes us all the way back to the beginning of this post.) If I stand silently while these messages are being sent out it’s as dangerous as saying “I agree with you.” This is a tough area for me. I would rather not rock the boat. I get all shaky the moment before the words come out of my mouth. But I want my messages to matter. I want them to speak loudly to my children. I want to stand up for what I believe in. To change the imbalances in our world I have to be willing to say, I don’t agree with what you are saying, in front of my children so they may find the courage to do the very same thing. If I can find the courage to gently jolt a parent out of bullying their child on the sidelines of a hockey game, I can show my children one way to stand up to a bully. When I find a dollar to share with a desperate man on the corner, I can begin a conversation about homelessness, addiction and a world that would rather wish it away. The choice to notice or ignore is mine and both send a message. I want to be aware of what that message is and make the choice that is best aligned with the world I dream of and desperately want for my children and truthfully for all children to grow up and inherit.