I came across a link to a blog post recently titled something like “12 Things Your Daughter Needs To Hear You Say.” I was excited to read it, but the daughter of this mom is a teenager and their family values are different than ours. There was nothing on her list that I could imagine saying to my own daughter, especially at the ripe old age of 2.
So I made my own list. Here are 11 things I want my daughter to hear from me.
1. You can do this.
I read a post this week by a mom saying she wasn’t helping her child up the ladder at the playground because she wanted her to learn that she can overcome an obstacle without help.
I resonate with that so strongly (even if I still sometimes help Bean up the ladder). I want her to hear me say, “You can do this,” and know I mean, “I believe in you. And I will celebrate with you. But I’m not going to make it happen for you.”
2. I hear you.
I’m sure it feels to Bean that all I ever say to her is “No.”
“No, not right now.”
“Me help cook?”
“No, this is too hot.”
“Me no sleepy!”
“No, you cannot stay up any longer.”
Because we are in opposition so often, and especially on days when we’ve been in conflict a lot, I want her to know that I do hear her.
“I hear you saying that you want to help me cook. This pan is hot, but would you like to put some cheese in this bowl and then I’ll pour it in the pan?”
As much as I want her to hear me say this, I need to hear myself say it. It is so easy to get wrapped up in the boundaries I set to keep her safe, keep the house tidy, keep me from having to do extra clean up. But there is magic in permission, wonder to be found in the “yes.”
Last week, instead of repeating my regular refrain of, “Don’t draw on yourself,” I surprised us both by saying, “You can draw on the paper and you can draw on your skin. Please don’t draw on your clothes or the furniture.” She looked at me like she’d just won the lottery and then went to town with four different colors on every bit of skin she could find. It all came off in the bath a few hours later, anyway.
4. You can say no.
I want her to know that I respect her boundaries. Sometimes I override them (when it is bedtime, for example), but I give her a lot of choices. She stops eating when she is full or doesn’t like the food. She can be naked (until we need to go to the store). She picks her jammies each night and which shoes she wants to wear each day.
This two-year-old moment right now is all about her learning where her boundaries are, now that she is finally aware of being distinct from me. My gut tells me that the more I encourage her to know and speak her boundaries now the easier it will be when she really needs that skill. Like when she’s involved with boys, or working for an overbearing boss.
5. Let’s try.
I don’t need her to think I’m the authority on everything. I want her to see me curious. I want her to see me learn. I want her to see me work toward something that is hard to achieve.
If she asks me to do something and I don’t know how to do it. I want to be willing to figure it out with her.
6. Please. Thank you. I’m sorry.
Just in the last week Bean is consistently using these words and suddenly I’m aware of how often I say them to her. A lot. For the first few days she was parroting me, but now she’s using them more independently.
I want her to hear me say these things to her, but also to others. To see me loving her father, not always perfectly. To see me asking for and accepting help.
I can’t tell you how nice it was yesterday when she accidently whacked me in the face, then leaned in and hugged me and said, “I sorry, Mama.”
7. You are beautiful and perfect, just like you are.
I worry about the slippery slope of beauty and body consciousness of little girls, littler all the time, so for a while I stopped myself when I wanted to say “You are beautiful!” But the truth is, she is beautiful. She is beautiful to me. She’s beautiful when her hair is a mess and she has snot on her face. She’s beautiful when she’s so excited about the paint she is smearing everywhere.
I never want this to be the only way I articulate my love for her, but I want her to hear that I see her beauty in so many ways.
8. Let’s fix it or make a new one.
Recently, I brought out Bean’s summer clothes and showed her a particularly cute pair of shorts. “Mama make?” she asked. I wish I could always say yes to that, but I’m proud that I can occasionally. When something breaks or comes apart, she brings it to me and asks, “Mama fix?”
I want to raise a child who doesn’t just throw things away if they can be repaired. I want her to recognize the effort that goes into making things, whether that effort is our own or we are paying for someone else’s effort.
9. It feels good for me when you…
This morning while I drowsed before the alarm went off, Bean snuggled into me and pulled my arm over her like a blanket. I knew she was ready to get up but she seemed to sense how sleepy I was.
While we were driving across town to her daycare a little while later I said, “I really enjoyed snuggling with you this morning. That felt so good for me.”
“Me, too!” she said.
10. I will be back soon.
Every time I leave Bean, I tell her when I will be back. I hear her talking through the day sometimes: “Me go Grandma’s home, Mama go work. I cry. An’den, Mama come back! Me happy see you, Mama.”
It is always hard to leave her, even when I know she’s in excellent and loving arms. I know she misses me, too, and I want her to feel secure that I will always return.
11. I love you, right now and always.
If the only words she remembers were these, they would be enough.
What things do you want your child to hear you say? I’d love to see your lists!
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