Our Influence on Our Children’s Internal Dialogue

Some time ago, I had the insight that as I interact with my children, I am significantly influencing the voice they will hear in their mind as they grow and experience life. Particularly, as they struggle, my voice, even when I am not physically present, will be one that they hear.

Wow! Sit with that for a moment. The influence we have as parents is intense and it oh so humbling.

If you are doubting that we have as much influence as I am suggesting, pause for a moment and think about what it’s like when you are stressed. Think about the messages that are firing off in your mind. Try tracing them back. Try thinking about who else speaks in a similar manner. It’s more than likely someone you knew early in your life.

Obviously, there are the other voices that factor into one’s internal dialogue mash-up…the other parent, caregivers, peers, teachers, grandparents, coaches, one’s relationship with God, etc. But how our voice is represented…that is what we have the most power to influence.

If we lived and chose our words with our children today like we knew that our words will some day become a part of their internal dialogue, would we speak with a different tone and would we choose different words?

Let me be real for a moment. I am not a perfect parent. There, I said it.

Some time ago, when I had the realization that my voice is one my sons will hear when they struggle, it was because I heard my words come out of their mouths. For one child, it happened when he was working on a preschool assignment of writing his alphabet. “These aren’t good enough”, he said. And he’d erase them…over and over again. And then, it morphed into expressions that he would never complete the task but somehow needed to hurry to get it done. I recognize I am providing an example that may seem insignificant, but writing assignments for preschoolers are the types of challenges they face. I’ve also seen it play out as my kids have struggled through piano lessons, soccer games, homework projects, and relationships.

Before you go down the road of self-shaming and thinking you have already messed up as a parent in an unrepairable way, I want you to hear some really good news.

It is NEVER too late to ask for forgiveness.

We are wired for forgiveness.

I see evidence repeatedly as I interact with friends and as I engage with clients. The change when forgiveness occurs is observable. Crossing over the threshold of forgiveness leads us to peace and unity. It is a deeply emotional and spiritual process. I’ll talk more about forgiveness in the future, but for now, hear me say that forgiveness has intense healing power. Healing power that can even repair damaging internal dialogue.

So let me keep going with more good news. Even though asking for forgiveness is humbling and can feel fairly uncomfortable at times, it doesn’t have to be complicated!

When we mess up as a parent, when our words have been too harsh, too anxious, too critical, or too angry, admit it. Be specific. I have shared with my children that when I feel stressed, I can become impatient and hurried. I have shared that sometimes I do not offer myself the grace for things to be ‘good enough’. I tell them that I am sorry that I have spoken with the words and the tone relaying these messages to them. I give them a better option…reminding them what offering encouragement and compassion and kindness to myself sounds like. I ask for their forgiveness and 100% of the time they offer it.

I walk away more empowered to speak to myself with encouragement and compassion and kindness… because it’s more likely to pour out of me if I’m pouring it in.

And those words, that tone…that’s what I want them to offer themselves when they struggle.

When Celebrating Feels Unnatural: A Mother’s Day Reflection

My journey of motherhood is complicated. As time passes and I am granted more opportunities to enter into the stories of other women, I am beginning to recognize that the journey is complicated for most of us. Literally, for most of us.

I have learned that celebrating Mother’s Day can feel like an unnatural choice. To many, Mother’s Day does not automatically come with a simple dose of all the positive emotions one might assume. Recognizing Mother’s Day can easily bring to the surface emotions that we have worked unreasonably hard to hide. For some, loneliness, disappointment, grief, longing, bitterness, guilt, and shame are a part of this day. They are the pieces that make the celebration feel a bit unnatural.

Here is what I want you to know…You Are Not Alone. Not. Even. Close.

As I think about my own rocky journey, I remember the days that I sat in silence…in confusion…in loneliness. Years of infertility. Burying my 3-day-old daughter. Watching caseworkers remove our son following a failed adoption. For many years, there was absolutely no desire to celebrate.

Ten years ago, I was given the unexpected gift of a beautiful healthy son. Two years later, it happened again. Yes, TWO amazing sons! One who looks like his daddy and one who looks like me.

And with that, there is something else I want you to know…those two boys didn’t take away the pain of the journey and their arrival didn’t eliminate the path I had already traveled.

There are many truths I have learned through my own journey and one I’d like to gently tell you today…my pain has only lessened as a result of giving myself permission to deeply experience the fullness of the emotions that have accompanied my journey.

So, this is what it looks like today…I wear this awesome set of rings bearing the names of the four children that’ll always have my heart. We grill lunch and eat with my mom who is experiencing her first Mother’s Day without the man who made her a mother. My husband and sons plant flowers and build a garden in our yard. We eat ice cream at the grave of my daughter. I say a prayer for the son that I do not get to raise.

It’s complicated. And yet, I have found peace, beauty, AND joy in the ways we honor our complicated story.

I know your story is complicated too. I know this because I have heard the stories, countless stories. Maybe I haven’t heard your story but stories that may not be as far off as you’d imagine. Please know that your journey matters…the parts that are easy to celebrate AND the parts that make the celebrating less natural.

And please know that you are not alone. NOT. EVEN. CLOSE.