Guest Post from Mary Kelso A couple of years ago, there was a busy morning of getting two of my boys ready for school and my pre-schooler, Aron, dressed to ride along. I laid Aron's clothes out for him in the living room. He was still eating breakfast in the kitchen and we were running late. Instead of making him run upstairs to find clothes I decided to bring them down and let him dress in a corner behind the couch (they all love to do this) once he was finished.
In the process of disrobing he suddenly felt the urgent need to go to the bathroom so he ran for it. I didn't see him take off, as my back was turned, but I did see him return. In my peripheral vision I saw a little flesh colored streak jump through the air and land beside the pile of clothes he still needed to put on.
He was trying to be sneaky, so I wouldn't see him running around nearly naked. Sneaky and fast. He shouted to me, "mom, did you see me?"
I knew he wanted to hear that I didn't. I couldn't lie, but I could exaggerate a bit.
"Barely" I said. "All I saw was a flash and then boom, there you were. You were SO fast."
He smiled proudly and finished getting ready to leave.
Later that afternoon he was talking to his big brother and said, "Ivan, guess what? I ran to the bathroom in my underwear and I didn't want mom to see me. I was so fast all she could see was a flash when I ran back!"
He believed it. He believed he was fast, like a flash of lightning. He believed it because that's what I said.
Which made me feel responsible. And careful.
Because wouldn't it stand to reason that he would believe other things I could say about him?
My mother warned me about this, about names and words we call people, especially children, and though I heeded her warning I didn't see how important it was until I saw how easily he took my words to be his. To be him.
What if I had told him he's an idiot?
What if I had told him I didn't care?
What if I had told him to SHUT-UP?
What if I had called him a little jerk? A little brat? A nuisance? What about Stupid? Fool? Devil?
What would he believe about himself then?
Oh, be careful little ears what you hear...maybe your mommy doesn't mean it.
How important are they? The little nouns and adjectives we use?
When he dumps his cereal for the third time that week.
When she gets into your make-up again.
When he pees down the side of the toilet.
When she uses your scissors and can’t seem to find them.
When he leaves his dirty socks between the cushions of the couch for the third afternoon in a row.
When you don't have time or energy to answer her question for the 10th, 11th, or 12th time.
Every time you find yourself placed between him and what his actions make you feel, remember, no matter what you say...He believes.