Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The Words We Don't Say

Words matter. As a writer this has always held true for me. As a mother, it holds a whole new threshold of truth.

I've been thinking a lot lately about the words I put out into the universe. Not about what my words say about me, but rather what my words say to my son. What do my words teach him about the world, about our family, about himself? How will my words, whether spoken or written, shape who he becomes?

I have long been enchanted with the concept Sarah Bessey outlines in her post about speaking life into her children. She talks about how she actively seeks to notice and mention the good in her children not through "effusive praise but good, true words of life given with intention." Not only to point them in the right direction or build their self-esteem (though surely this is a part of it), but also to "cement how [she sees] them."

The words I say to Lucas have a power that frightens me. The things I say to him don't just shape how he sees me or how he sees the world; they shape how he views himself, and how he thinks I view him. He is a methodical little one, a quiet and watchful soul. Whenever I react to him, I can see him absorbing my words, calculating the meaning of my response, measuring, in his own way, the extent of my love for him. 

He understands language well enough now to know that it can be used as an expression of love. When I say "I love you" he gives me a kiss or snuggles against me to show me his love. He does it without being prompted, without ever being taught, and it blows my mind every time. Sometimes, I think perhaps he sees all language as an expression of love. Somewhere in his soul he's catching all my words and fitting them together like puzzle pieces to determine where we stand on the grounds of love.

 (I hope we stand on a rock, my dear, as big and sturdy a rock as the world's ever known.)

So, I am careful to give him deserving praise, to speak life into his soul, to give him the love he yearns after. I let him know he is my world, my sunshine, my own heart beating outside my body.

But this is not my struggle with words.

Because motherhood is not all sunshine and happiness, even if it is always love. Some days are rough and these are the days when my words matter most. It is so hard to put the frustration aside and speak words of life when tantrums and whining and food throwing ensues. It is hard to keep discipline separate from words of negativity. It is hard to speak the language of love when I don't feel that love coming back.

This is why the words we don't say matter.

Even though I still slip up sometimes, I am trying my best to let my love show through the difficult moments. I am learning to focus on the words I don't say. It doesn't just mean changing the way I talk to Lucas, but also the way I talk about him to others. It means not giving in to the impulse to complain about him after a difficult day. It is so easy to fall into the "pig pen" (as Sarah describes it) of complaining about our children, but even if the words are not spoken to Lucas, they still undercut him. If Rob comes home and I say in front of Lucas, "Oh man, Lucas has been so (difficult, whiny, etc.) today," you can be sure he's taking that into his heart, judging himself over my words. I don't ever want anything I say to make him think twice about how good of a person he is.

Even if he isn't around, the words I don't say matter. I am his mother, and I should be the one to stand up for him not tear him down. He is mine, and I love him, and that should shine through, always. It's not about trying to look like I have the perfect child (I don't) or trying to look like the perfect mother (ha!). It's about having his back, because I'm his mom.

It's about speaking the language of love. Always.

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