I’ve been enamored with quite a few of my friends’ families. I study and watch how loving families interact so that I can model and learn what kind of family I want to create. A few years ago, I helped put on a surprise 40th birthday party for my friend Grant. His family lived out of town, and so there was a lot of email correspondence amongst the family members and myself. Grant’s sister came up with the idea that we’d have a big poster with responses to the question, “What do you love most about Grant?” We got several email responses from the friends/family email chain, and then one from Grant’s mother stopped me in my tracks. She replied to the question, “What’s there not to love about Grant?”
And in that moment I realized that I wanted to be that mother. I wanted my kids’ internal voices to be that self-loving because their parent’s voice was that loving.
Parents verbally direct and nag children so that they finally internalize brushing their teeth and putting on their shoes from that internal tape loop. If the voices we use are kind, then their internal voice will likely be kind too. I fail every day by being my human and faulty self. Apparently I’ve transferred my habit of cussing into their internal voices as well. It is not always easy to speak with a soft voice when kids are being kids. Often the boys ignore me until I lose my patience, and then they look at me with shocked surprise when I yell the thing I’ve just asked them 10 times nicely to do.
But a really great thing happened last week, and when I hear myself telling different friends on different occasions the same story, I try to write it down.
Wallace, who is 8 going on 9, came home from school with a “get to know you” questionnaire that they filled out in class with a friend. One question was, “What is the best thing about being you?” and the next was “What is the worst thing about being you?”. I was so delighted with his answer to that one. It was a big question mark. He didn’t have any response to what was bad about being himself. And I was really excited to feel like I’ve done some good work toward helping him to feel “What’s there not to love about being Wallace?”