I remember a time when our mornings started like this:
“Nick, your bed is wet again. Strip the sheets and take them down to the laundry.”
“Gabe, seriously? No poo poo in your pull-up. You need to get out of bed and go use the potty.”
“Olivia, you took your diaper off again?! No, no, no. See? Now it’s all yucky.”
Sometimes I’d get a little crazy and throw in a “Good morning.” But more often than not, I’d enter their rooms, see what was wrong, and start issuing corrections immediately.
The rest of our morning routine was a similar affair. Maybe I’d ask a question, but it really wasn’t intended to get an answer so much as specify a required outcome.
“Nick, are you going to pick a shirt today?”
“Gabe, are you going to suck your fingers until you’re in high school?”
“Olivia, do you want Skippy to eat your breakfast?”
I was the Mother Hen, slowly peck-peck-pecking away at their self-esteem every single morning before I sent them out into the world. I was essentially telling them “You suck!” from the time they woke up until the time I dropped them off with a perfunctory kiss and an autopilot “have a good day, kiddo.”
Was I serious?!
Would I “have a good day” if someone woke me up with:
“Every night you hog all of the covers. That’s very selfish. Now stop it.”
“You’re really going to wear that color today? Green makes you look like you’re gonna puke.”
“Why stop at your nails? Why not bite your fingers too? We can call you Nana Nubby.”
“Nana, everything you’re doing is wrong wrong WRONG!”
Quite a wake-up call.
I was setting the tone for the rest of their day, starting every morning with what they needed to fix or change or do better. I wasn’t meeting them where they were but where they had to go according to my standards, my rules, my obsessions. And I was priming them to see the world, and themselves, as only half full, less than perfect, because I had forgotten that what my words matter.
These days, no matter how late we are or how distracted/irritated/ticked I am about whatever, I rub their backs and gently whisper in their ear.
“Welcome back, kiddo,” I start, then marvel as they uncurl their little bodies. “Look how much you grew last night! When you’re ready, get dressed and come on down. Mommy made a super yummy breakfast today. Doesn’t that smell good?”
It is so easy to forget what marvelous creatures they are – these happy, smart, strong, children who grace us with their presence. Every time we say “goodnight” they return the next morning a little bigger, older and wiser.
And we are fortunate enough to witness it all.
Let my words always guide them, as they become who they are.
Let my words always protect them, so they value who they are.
Let me words always comfort them, so they know – always know –
They are loved.