Words

“I don’t like swimming,” said the little boy, five years-old.

“It’s too hard. And I have to do it every day at camp.”

“If you do it every day, then you’ll get better at it and then it won’t be so hard,” I responded.

“Hmmmm,” he remarked, twitching his little nose, dubiously.

“Here’s the thing,” I said. The boy looked at me, both curious but doubtful of the grown-up advice he was about to receive. I fully expected an eye-roll, selective listening or to be outright dismissed.

“If you believe in yourself,” I continued. “If you believe that every day you’ll get a little bit better than the day before, then I bet by the end of the summer, you will be an amazing swimmer.”

He looked at me.

And then returned to playing, or went off elsewhere. I don’t remember. This was probably the longest and most serious conversation I’d had with this little boy who I’ve known all his little life. But I presumed, to him, I was just another boring adult saying bla bla bla. I quickly forgot the conversation as I assumed he had.

A month or so later, his parents mentioned to me that suddenly he’s had a new attitude towards his swimming classes. He’s serious. Committed. Intent on doing the work and improving. He told them “Aunty Sam told me to believe in myself so that’s what I’m doing.”

Hearing this brought sudden hot tears to my eyes, surprising even myself. Who knew that the words that had come out of my mouth – without too much aforethought, admittedly – had actually been heard, instead of discarded? Those words were processed by that little mind. Absorbed and now, applied.

So many words. We say so many words to each other. Many without due thought, not even thinking about the impact they may have or unsure whether anyone is really listening.

But Sondheim was right: “Careful the things you say. Children will listen.

This was a potent, and precious, reminder.

Embed from Getty Images

Beware Bitchy Mama

It’s been a long week and it’s not over yet. Been doing the working Mom/sick kid juggle a.k.a. trying to do it all and not doing much of anything well. I’ve been Worried Mama. I’ve been Sympathetic Mama. I’ve been Entertaining Mama. I’ve been Tradeoff Mama. I’ve been Sick Mama too. And today I’m Bitchy Mama. My patience has worn thin, I need uninterrupted sleep and to watch TV that is not animated.

These are the zero-tolerance rules that Bitchy Mama has set forth today for the kids:

  • Any sentence starting with “I want” is being ignored.
  • Any request that does not include the word “please” is being ignored.
  • All and any whining is ignored.
  • If you are yelling for me and I am in a different part of the house, you will be ignored. Come find me. Especially if it involves blood or other bodily fluids.
  • If you are fighting, do not expect me to moderate. Work it out.
  • Tattle-telling will get you nowhere, fast.
  • If you do not listen to me, there’s a strong chance I will yell at you.
  • If you need something and it is within reach, go get it yourself.
  • I am the boss of you.

Let’s be clear. These are not rules that were implemented for the first time today. They are a constant – kind of. There’s usually a fair amount of latitude and negotiation involved; some give and take. But today I was The Enforcer. And it felt really good.

Bitchy Mama will hopefully be replaced by Sweet & Loving Mama tomorrow. But the zero-tolerance rules will remain.

%d bloggers like this: