As a camp counselor and lifeguard, I was in the best shape of my life. Lithe and brown and sporting long, dark braids, I lived up to the nickname from campers: Aunt Pocahontas.
This was twenty years ago, mind you.
(Sometimes, this thought freaks me out. Twenty years is a lifetime, yet it seems like yesterday. Will the next twenty years go so fast?
Also, side note, twenty years ago, mothers and fathers trusted me to keep their tweens alive for an entire week. What were they thinking?)
Anyway, in spite of walking, running and swimming, I thought my derriere was still way too big.
Words from a much older lifeguard impacted my self-image more than I’m sure he ever knew. Looking back, I’m not really sure why I didn’t tell him to shut up, or even mention it to my supervisor. I guess I knew he meant no harm (and I still believe this).
Unfortunately, though, his words shaped my self image. Every time I ran by, he raised a hand in greeting.
Hey! Bubble Butt!
He had a mildly insulting nickname for everyone, much like Gilbert calling Anne “Carrots.”
And here I am, twenty years later, still remembering.
So I must remember, in the moments when my children are annoying, or aggravating, or do something downright stupid:
We all think words that cross the line. Right?
I’ll admit it.
I think words I should not say every time the boy decides he’d like to experiment (for instance, when I discovered his attempt to determine whether he could emulsify a huge, open container of oil and vinegar…in his BEDROOM).
Or when the girl pretends a comprehension disability much greater than the difficulty she actually has.
HOW could you be so STUPID?
DON’T be such an IDIOT.
These are the things I must not say. Because honestly, they’re not BEING these things.
I mean, yeah, if you want to get down to brass tacks, I do think it’s a dunce move for a kid with known motor-skills-issues to transport a liter and a half of stinky, sticky fluid into his room. But he’s not BEing stupid; his actions are simply unwise.
And I still have to watch my tongue.
Today, I listened to a new acquaintance talk about her mother, who evidently has nothing nice to say about her choices, her lifestyle. her clothes, her hair and her choice in men.
This acquaintance is in the midst of surgeries (two shoulder surgeries down, one neck surgery to go). She is effectively disabled for weeks after surgery and her insurance won’t pay for rehabilitative care. Instead of staying with her lone local family member, she talked the doctor into putting her into a rehab facility that serves homeless persons.
Because her mother’s words hurt so deeply, she would rather stay in that facility than with the one person in the world who should love her unconditionally.
One other thing: this woman is in her fifties, and her mother’s words still have this power.
I pray that I will never be that mother.
My frustration has, more than once, allowed unkind words to slip out.
Today, I renewed my vow to watch my tongue. To think better, kinder thoughts. To focus on the behavior rather than the personality.
Because what I say to them will exist forever in their minds.
In twenty years.
In forty years.
After I am dead, my words will live.
When they remember my words, I want them to feel encouraged. Uplifted. Inspired. Motivated to do better—without feeling belittled. Loved.
Twenty years from now, I don’t want them to look in the mirror and glare at what follows them. If they hear my voice in their heads, these are the messages I hope they hear:
I love you more than the sun and the moon.
I will love you—no matter WHAT you do.
I will never stop believing in you.
I hope Hubby hears those things, too.
I read these wise words about the power of what we say (and thought you might like to see them, too):
Ephesians 4:29 ESV
Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.
Proverbs 12:18 ESV
There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.
Matthew 15:18 ESV
But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person.
Matthew 12:36 ESV
I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak,
Proverbs 16:24 ESV
Gracious words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body.
James 1:26 ESV
If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless.
Assignment two for Writing 101: write a list
Things I’ve Learned from My Adopted Children
Sometimes kids are angry
Angry kids can hold a grudge for a really, really long time
Angry kids can scream for a really, really, really, really long time
Angry kids tend to have a number of negative behaviors
In general, negative behavior is not the real problem, but the symptom
Determining the actual issue behind the behavior may require counselors, behavioral aides, play therapists, psychiatrists, neuro-psychological tests, hours of discussion over several years, sleepless nights, screaming fits (on the part of both parents and children, if we’re being honest), and possibly a privately funded investigator (we haven’t gotten that far yet; I’ll let you know)
“Attention getting” takes on a whole new meaning with children of neglect
Positive attention is wonderful for both children and parents
Negative attention is just as good (in a child’s mind) as positive attention—maybe better, because it usually lasts even longer
Creating negative situations is the best way to get negative attention until the parents catch on, which may take two to three years (we’re now onto them)
A five year old boy can scream louder than a wild hyena
A seven year old girl can be more stubborn than a full-grown male goat
Two parents can be more stubborn than either, but cannot scream louder (we tried)
Spending three years in hell and a fourth year in purgatory can result in a fifth year of rewarding results
Watching two children blossom and grow into kids with a bright future is unbelievable
Seeing their eyes light up when they finally grasp the math concept or decide on the right behavior without prodding is incredible
Hearing them say, “I love you, Daddy and Mama,” can almost make you forget three years of hell (almost)
Adoption is not easy, but you know…nothing of true value ever is