And? Lately I've realized that I'm shaping my oldest daughters to have critical and sometimes harsh inner voices.
But? I refuse to accept the lie that says "this is just how I am." I know I can do better for all of us. But lest this all sound legalistic, let me be clear: my motivation isn't to be perfect or flawless. I know myself too well to aim for that nonsense. I just want to show more grace. That's the goal here.
So I got myself some bracelets. I was going to use Silly Bands, but I had these jelly bracelets from Oriental Trading handy. (Because, ahem, I ordered them for Jocelyn's and Patience's 7th birthday parties and tucked them away and promptly forgot all about them. Yes, the girls are 8.5 now. Don't judge.)
I'll probably still order some Silly Bands, since these have a strong plastic smell and are hard to put on because they're child sized while my hand isn't. I don't want to wait until they come in, though. I feel a sense of urgency to change how I talk to my girls. So these will do for now.
Here's the plan: The bracelets will start on my right hand each day. With every affirming statement to one of our big girls, I'll move one over to my left hand. With every critical statement to them, I'll move one back to my right wrist. If I'm tempted to say something critical but I don't have any bands on my left hand or only have a few, I'm planning to let it slide as long as there's no immediate safety risk. This will require me to have stored up affirmation before anything critical passes my lips.
Over time, I might tweak the system. While I'm ultimately aiming for the good to substantially outweigh the critiques, I think evening them out is good for now because that's still an improvement from how it's been lately. Maybe in time I'll change the process later to move two or three over for each critical statement so that I make sure the positive words are said more than the negative, but this is my first step.
So far, my personal competitiveness - that same drive that pushed me to improve my times and scores in high school swimming and golf - is pushing me to do better and one up myself, which is making me a more encouraging mom already. In other words, it's working. And with all of the kids a little more angsty lately, I'm hoping a changed mama will lead to a changed family.
I want to enjoy them. I want them to enjoy me. I'm not talking about being a friend instead of a mother, but I do believe I can and should be friendlier than I've been lately.
Will this keep working? I'm not completely sure. But I do know they are worth trying something, anything, even something as silly as wearing rainbow colored children's bracelets. After all, I want their inner voices to be uplifting, empowering, loving, kind, merciful, and full of grace.
And I want my voice to be all of those things too.
Note: I'm not sharing this for accolades or atta girls. I'm sharing it to be real. I'm also sharing it because I'm guessing I'm not the only one who is struggling with this. Finally, I'm sharing it because I find that posting ideas to the blog makes me feel more accountable to follow through with my intentions, even if no one ever asks me about it. Call me crazy, but going public gives me a sort of personal accountability I can't quite explain. So, there you have it. Here's to changed attitudes in my home, starting with mine.