My heart was broken recently. A comment was made about my daughter to me by a friend of hers. Her friend being a few years older sees the world in a slightly different light than my daughter. My daughter is 5; she’s powerful and full of wild energy. She makes no apologies for who she is, she’s a wonderfully funny and creative person. My daughters friend sees her in a way that I now know is not entirely positive.
I was taken aback by the comment she made. I was shocked when I heard the words come out of her mouth. “Pardon me?”. The look on her face screamed “Right?! You know what I’m talking about!”. She wanted me to tag along and agree with what she was saying. About my daughter. I was dumbfounded. My heart was broken. My thoughts began to spin weaving into and through each other. I finally settled my mind but couldn’t say a word.
Later I thought about what I could have said to this child in that moment. How could I have responded so she understood that my daughters vibrancy is not something to mock or diminish but something to be applauded and celebrated. I began braiding these thoughts into sentences, into explanations then I realized… it doesn’t matter what I could have said to this girl. What matters is how I treat my daughter, how I respond to my daughter and how I celebrate my daughter everyday. Do I do all I can to help my daughter shine her brightest? Does it matter if someone else doesn’t see her shine?
I thought about this incident for days and days, I dug deeper into why what she said affected me so much. I thankfully had been listening to a Living Joyfully podcast just a day or so before this comment was made. Anne’s answer to the first question of the podcast kept popping in my head, it reminded me where I needed to look to get past my hurt of this situation and look deeper at what was really important. As I dug deeper I came to a place of my own self worth, self confidence and value. I reflected on the many moments in grocery stores, playgrounds or libraries when I could feel someones judgements; judgements so heavy they weighed me down like a wet blanket hanging on a laundry wire.
You know those times. You’re standing in line at the grocery store, your child is tired or hungry; you wish you didn’t come to the store but had to, you were out of diapers and tomorrow is a holiday stores will be closed. People stare at your child as she gets more and more upset after having been stuck under horrible florescent lights for too long. In this moment things can go one of two ways. You can allow the feeling of being judged to affect you so much you get angry at your child ~ all the while your mind is spinning and screaming at you “I’m so embarrassed, they think I’m a bad mom, I am a bad mom, this is my fault…” your mind races out of control and what you’re left with is a feeling of shame then you project your feelings on to your child. But instead it can go a completely different way. You can see your child struggling, hungry, tired and overwhelmed by sounds, lights, people. Instead of allowing the feeling of shame, from feeling judged, to take you over say “I love you”. To both your child and yourself. Give your child a hug, a reassuring word, make them laugh, grab something from the cart for them to nibble on, hold them for as long as you can.
Instead of allowing judgements or people’s opinions to shape the way you respond to your child choose to love them more. Even when it’s really hard because you are feeling judged, or embarrassed, or ashamed. Love them more.
I remember hearing stories about when I and my siblings were young. My parents would get compliments when we’d be out at a restaurant about how well behaved we were. We were all very young, too young to be expected to sit still for more than 5 minutes yet there we were still as sand on a beach. Quiet as mice afraid of being snatched by the big scary cat. (My big scary cat was my father and his temper.) I remember sitting around my grandparents table at holiday dinners not saying a word. I was a quiet child. Many reasons why I was quiet was a result of the adults in my life making sure I stayed quiet. Adults generally aren’t comfortable around children. They aren’t comfortable with the wild energy children have. They themselves were told enough times to put their own wild energy and fun away. They don’t know how to enjoy time with children, how to talk with children. If you’re going to live in this world run by adults you best be quiet and don’t disturb the adults.
Because most of us were raised in this kind of atmosphere: at home, in school, in church, on sports teams of course we as adults feel terrified to cause the slightest ruffle. Especially in public. We don’t even recognize our own responses are not ours at all. They are so ingrained in who we have become it almost seems like our genuine choice when we react to our children’s emotions and needs with control. When our children have a meltdown in aisle 6 because they’ve just had enough of people, sounds, lights we rush to stop them. We get angry with them. But instead of becoming angry look at your child and see your inner child. Really. Do it. That child within you that was told to shut up, sit down, don’t get up unless everything on your plate is finished, you need a good kick in the pants… yes that child… know that you have a chance now as the parent to do it differently for your child and for you. You get to choose how this story is written. You get to decide who you want to impress or gain approval from… your child. You. Not that person at the store or the restaurant. Your child. That’s who you want to impress. That’s whose approval you seek.
I look back at the comment that was made about my daughter and all I feel now is compassion for the child who made it. She’s growing up in a world where backhanded sarcasm masks emotions long neglected. Where children are told to buck up, shut up, sit down, stand. Where children are forced to build walls around their hearts because they’re left to fend for themselves in school yards and on buses.
If ever someone makes a remark to me again I’m going to smile and say “my daughter is a fierce, vibrant, joyful, beautiful human being who needs no ones approval to allow her to shine. She shines so brightly you’ll see her as the sun. She shines so brightly she’ll shine a light on the person you’ve forgotten how to be but also invite you to remember. And that’s pretty amazing.
How beautiful our world is because we celebrate our children’s SHINE. I want to say thank you to Pam, Anne and Anna for their Round Table episodes and to Pam for all the Living Joyfully podcasts. They’re an invaluable resource. If you’re looking for reminders or guidance to finding your way to a place of celebrating your child’s SHINE I can’t recommend these podcasts enough.
I want to share an excerpt from something Anne said in response to the first question from Episode 73:
“Your questions will naturally fade away as you focus on that light which is your child’s shine. In fact, here are some other questions you can ask of yourself everyday: How can I connect with my son, today, in a place of sheer joy accepting, honoring, and celebrating all that he is and all that he loves? How can I best serve him and be his friend, his mother who loves him unconditionally for being exactly who he is? How can I create a sacred safe space for him to discover his own path and to become who he is meant to be? And what can I bring to his life today that will allow him to shine even brighter? Those are some good questions and I believe that’s where you need to be holding your lantern.”
My daughter found a snake this morning. Upon being named Wonder Woman she was brought into the house for the day. After chatting with Wonder Woman for a while off my daughter went to find some food for her new friend. Once Wonder Woman was given her food my daughter sat at the piano and sang her a song. How awesome is she? I just adore her. ❤
“All Children SHINE When Celebrated for Being Exactly Who They Are.”
~ Anne Ohman