"The way we speak to our children becomes their inner voice." ~ Peggy O'Mara
That quote makes me shudder, because my own inner voice is relentless. I take a measure of comfort (?) in telling myself that it isn't completely true--after all, my own parents spoke love and affirmation over me often. In fact, my inner voice perhaps more closely mimics the harsh things they said about themselves rather than what they directed towards me. Which, now that I think about it, isn't comforting at all.
|Image credit: yugenro on Flickr|
I have some rock solid convictions about parenting, but that doesn't stop me from questioning everything, especially when I fail to live up to my own expectations. And I fail all the time. Throw in the fact that two of the four kidlets are always in disequilibrium (you Ames and Ilg-ers know what I mean) and their current ages... (Six. Oh, six just kills me! And three is coming up shortly after we hit seven. Twitch. Shiver. Twitch again.) Um. Anyway.
A few months ago, I finally got to meet in real life an amazing gentle mama that I had become connected with online through a gentle parenting board. I will skip the details, but the combination of travel, being six, and not having much practice in a beloved sibling suddenly wanting to play with someone else, brought out rather horrific behavior in one of my children that had me inwardly writhing in humiliation and outwardly trying to maintain some semblance of calm.
I apologized to her and she gently and loving began to remind me of how God parents us. However, she wasn't talking about what I should be doing for my children.
She was speaking His mercy over me.
With incredible wisdom, she encouraged me to stop my negative self-scripts and to listen to His voice of truth, love, acceptance and forgiveness. To remember that I am His child and He is my abba, my papi, my daddy. To let go of the criticism, disappointment, and shaming messages that play in my head and to respond to my own mistakes with grace and gentleness, the way that I want to respond to my children's mistakes. I have read many similar things, and some of Naomi Aldort's materials have been helpful, but something in her eyes or voice or words made me really get it.
I don't expect my eight year old to do quadratic equations. My two year old can't read. My six year old doesn't drive (although he wishes he did. It starts early, I guess). My four year old doesn't write essays. And when it comes to behavior, I try very hard to let go of unreasonable expectations and look for what is age appropriate there, as well. That needs to apply to me, too.
So even though I am an adult who is blessed to have fantastic resources, in real life role models as well as online and through books, I am only eight years old as a mom. I am still figuring out this parenting thing and working on it. Some days I don't know what to do. Some days I know, but I mess up. I need age appropriate expectations of myself.
Since my talk with that lovely mama, it is slowly beginning to sink in. On days when my shoulders sag, the sigh inside can't drown out the whisper of love and acceptance. I hear His voice humming songs of peace and comfort over me, and it goes deeper than the hiss of the Accuser.
Somehow, I believe that changing the voice inside me will also change the voice my children hear, both inside and outside. I want it to be a gentle voice of mercy and grace, truth and love, of acceptance and love. For all of us.