Nov 062012
 

The other day my daughter, Lyla, and I were at Starbucks fueling my caffeine and sugar addictions, when suddenly Lyla starts pointing out the window and saying, “Mama! Mama!” She was so excited, but for the life of me I could not figure out what she was pointing at. She’s only 18 months old, so often our communication is akin to platform flip-flops: confusing at best.

First I tried the “What do you see out there?” tactic. Airplane? – No.  Doggie? – No. Homeless person pushing a shopping cart that you think has a baby inside? – No, No, No!  So I switched tactics.  Perhaps she is wondering where her dad is.  Sometimes she gets our names confused. And in her defense, I had just finished working out and was sweaty and more than a little manly looking. So I said, “No honey, Mama is right here.  Papi is at work, but we will see him later tonight.”  She looked at me like I was an idiot (is it possible to be embarrassed in front of your one-year-old?) and began pointing even more emphatically out the window. “Mama! Mama!”

Lyla was starting to get frustrated, and I was starting to get desperate.  So I picked her up and walked to the window saying, “Show me what you are talking about, honey.” But when we got to the window, instead of pointing outside, she began pointing to the Starbucks logo on the window.  “Mama!” she said with a smile.  For a moment I looked between the logo and my daughter in pure puzzlement.  Yes, I do drink enough coffee for her to equate me with the beverage, however, usually it is not from Starbucks.  “Mama!”  she said again, pointing at the logo then stroking my hair.  I had never really looked at the logo before, so I studied it for a minute.  Suddenly it hit me, she thinks the logo is a picture of me.  So I said, “Oh!  This looks like me?  This looks like mama?”  And she smiled like the sun and said, “Yeah!” so happy that I had finally stopped being a total idiot and understood what she was trying to tell me.

It’s actually not a bad compliment.  The Starbucks logo is based on a 16th century Norse woodcut of a mermaid or Siren to go with Seattle’s nautical roots.  (I looked this up, I don’t actually know this much useless Starbucks information.  Just other kinds of useless information.)  Starbucks chick is kind of a babe. This is solid proof that to your children, you are the most beautiful woman in the world.  So I was happy. However, I think my daughter will be sorely disappointed that I am not actually Mrs. Starbucks when she is filling out those loan applications for college.  Maybe I will just tell her that I drank away our fortune.

 

Have you ever noticed what a babe the Starbucks chick is?

Does Starbucks owe me image royalties? Or at least free coffee?

Sep 042012
 

The other day I was at Target (it’s an addiction, people) and I heard someone say quite loudly, “GET YOUR ASS OVER HERE NOW!”  Curious, I looked in the general direction of the obnoxious voice and saw an angry-looking woman screaming at… a two-year-old.  Yes, a two-year-old.  As in a sweet, innocent, curious and slightly naughty because they all are, two-year-old.  The next day, my husband and I were with our daughter at a the park.  As we were playing in the sand, two more kids came to join us:  a little boy around two and his sister, who was about five.  As we are playing, the older girl began to scold her brother and my daughter.  “I told you to SHARE!” she said, ripping a toy from her brother’s hands.  I know that she is just a little girl, but after 15 minutes of this, I was slightly appalled and totally annoyed, so we moved away to play in a different area.  My husband, wise as ever, remarked, “I feel sorry for that girl.  That must be the way her parents talk to her.  It’s probably the only way she knows how to talk.”  Of course, he was right.  Kids don’t come out of the womb talking. (Thank goodness, I wouldn’t want to hear all of the things I was doing wrong in those first few weeks!)  Language is a learned skill.  When you speak to your children, you are not only teaching them words, but habits as well as values. It is not just what you say, but how you say it, and what it means.

Maybe it is because I am a writer, but I have always been in awe of the power of words. The most influential figures in history such as Martin Luther King Jr., Gandhi, Obama, and even Hitler, although clearly less positively,  have changed the world through their words.  For better or worse, it was their words and the manner in which they spoke them that inspired the masses – not their physical strength, money or weapons.  Words can truly do what no gun or bomb can, although they can be just as destructive.

If you think about it, most of the pivotal moments, both good and bad, in one’s life stem from words. “I love you.” “Congratulations!” “You’re fired.” “Mama. (my personal fave!)”   “Your offer was accepted.” “It’s not you, it’s me.” “I do.” “It’s a girl.” “Cancer.”  “You passed.” “Honey, would you like another glass of wine? (These particular words led to the conception of our daughter.)”  Yes, words are important.  They shape the course of one’s life.  But they also shape the course of one’s self.  No matter how strong you are, it’s difficult not to let another person’s words shape your perception of yourself.  And unfortunately it is often so much easier to believe the bad words rather than the good.  Why is that?  No matter how high your self-esteem has been built from a lifetime of encouragement and compliments, sometimes it takes only a single negative comment to knock it all down.  No matter how many people tell you that you are smart, kind, funny, beautiful, thin, or a great mother, all it takes is one person’s criticism to plant the seeds of self-doubt. And often our harshest and most outspoken critic is ourself. It’s hard for any amount of compliments to overcome our own negative thoughts.  Strange as it seems, a thousand “I love you”s can hardly stand up to a single “I hate myself.”

If we understand the power of words, then we must understand the responsibility that each of us holds… not only to other people, but also to ourselves and most importantly, to our children.  I am just now truly beginning to comprehend the weight of this responsibility.  My daughter started talking a few months ago, and now it seems as though she is picking up a new word every day, as well as repeating everything we say.  It’s cute when she repeats “I love you.” – or at least something that sounds like it – but terrifying when she says, “Yeah” in exactly the same annoying-teenage-girl manner in which I sometimes catch myself saying it.  And I already told you about my Friday night “Oh Sh!t”s slip up with my friend’s two-year-old.  If that poor kid becomes anything less than a successful doctor, lawyer or scientist, I am definitely going to blame his downward spiral on myself.

If you can’t think of something nice to say, don’t say it at all… especially if it is about me.

All joking aside though, a slip-up is bound to happen here and there.  We are only human, and some situations require the use of the colorful language that slides so easily off the tongue.  Shit happens, so to speak, so we can’t beat ourselves up about it. What is more important is the way we speak every day, not only when our kids are listening, but also when they are not.  I have learned that, like both the government and Perez Hilton, kids have eyes and ears everywhere.  They are always listening and learning from you, so be careful what you teach them.  Think about it… how can you teach your children to respect everyone, if they constantly hear you bashing that bitchy co-coworker or annoying neighbor to your girlfriends?  How can they learn equality when they hear you talking down to others?  How can your daughter feel beautiful if she hears you constantly bemoaning your own looks?  How can your kids learn to fight fair if they hear you and your husband fighting dirty?  The basic rule:  If you can’t think of something nice to say, don’t say it at all.  I know this phrase is just as annoying now as it was when your third grade teacher said it (along with “Keep your hands to yourself” and “Stop eating paste, Courtney.” ) but it’s true. It’s a tough one for me though.  I am naturally blunt, sarcastic, judgemental, easily annoyed and I love a good bit of gossip.  None of these things usually result in anything nice to say, so that often leaves me unusually mute. But I am a work in progress and I am working on these things for my daughter’s sake.  I hope you will too.

With every word we speak we are teaching our children, not only how to talk, but how to live.  So make sure you are doing your best to teach them the right way to do both.  Your kids will thank you someday… hopefully with perfect spelling and grammar.

Sep 012012
 

So last night I had an “Oh Shit!” moment.  Literally.  As in, my daughter knocked a bowl of pasta into my lap and I said, “Oh Shit!” and my friends’ 2 1/2-year-old stood up and screamed, “OH SHIT!”  To the entire restaurant.  And it was his first curse word. Nice work, huh?  My friends were cool about it, but oh shit, right?  I mean… oh no!

More on Words with Toddlers to come…

May 292012
 

My daughter is just starting to talk, so like every annoying mom, I say each new word slowly and then repeat it a few times while waving the object in question in her face.  Then she looks directly at me and usually says some random baby talk mumbo-jumbo, which I am pretty sure means, “Mom, I am a baby…not an idiot.  Stop waving stupid shit in my face and I promise to say the word when I am ready. Oh and by the way, I hate the Farmer in the Dell just as much as you do.”