Don’t Be Their Negative Voice

I’m really into giving myself a break lately. This morning there were no clean clothes. Pretty much none. Laundry has not been a priority lately as I’ve thrown myself into several home projects. I redecorated my writing space/office/junk room/guest room from a dungeon of despair into something beautiful and I rewired the lights in my kitchen because, according to YouTube, I am an electrician.

So when everyone was naked and frustrated this morning, I thought, Drops of Awesome. It’s been so long since everyone was naked and frustrated in the morning due to a laundry shortage. I’ve been getting much better at this domesticality thing. I am awesome.

They just sighed and lived. It’s true. All survived. Magoo wore soccer socks. Laylee searched for half an hour and found some cleanish pants and Dan just loved me anyway.

It’s kind of amazing. I could easily have let the experience ruin my entire day or week as I beat myself up, but I didn’t. I don’t like to listen to those voices anymore, the ones that tell me I’m a failure. They’re not productive. And they are jerks.

Here’s the problem. I may not listen to those voices in my own head but it doesn’t mean I don’t dish them out on my husband and kids.

A couple of nights ago, I was going over homework with Laylee. It was sloppy. It wasn’t her best effort. She could do so much more. I was being kind and constructive. I was trying to help her improve by pointing out every little imperfection. Halfway through the session, she got tearful and angry.

“Tell me what’s wrong, honey,” I prompted her.

She couldn’t talk. She was too upset. I told her to breathe and get back to me when she was ready. Half an hour passed and she tearfully and sincerely told me, “You are disappointed in everything I do.” She proceeded to list everything she felt she was doing to disappoint me and my heart broke a little. Tears came to my eyes.

I am not disappointed in this little girl. I am, in fact, in awe of her. So I feel like it’s my job to push her to fulfill her potential. And looking into her vulnerable, tearful face, I felt devastated. I’m not a John Gottman groupie, but I do believe in ratios, and as I thought about it, I really couldn’t think of many ways I’d built her up in the past couple of months. I would give myself at least a 5:1 negative to positive interaction ratio.

“You got ninety on this test. What happened here?” (pointing to the missed question)

“Were you paying attention?”

“This isn’t your best work.”

“Why is the milk out?”

“Whose shoes are these and why are they in the living room?”

“I’ve asked five times. Seriously. Set the table. How hard is this?”

“Your teacher says you’re reading when you’re supposed to be doing math.”

“You know better than that.”

“Oh, and I love you. Have a great day.”

“Why didn’t you brush your hair?”

I imagine that my kids’ negative inner voices sound a lot like me, nagging them.

I hugged Laylee. I apologized. I told her that if she thought I was disappointed in her, then I was not doing my job as a mother. Then I told her all the ways I was proud of her.

This was a Drop of Awesome. Just a drop. I can do more and I will. In that moment, that was the drop I could give. But, in that moment, I also decided that the next time I had the choice to correct her for something that did not matter, I’d hug her instead and offer to help.

So, the rest of the whole wide afternoon, I was not a nag. I was an encourager. I am an encourager. That’s who I am now. It’s on my radar. Am I perfect at it yet? Heck-to-the-ask-my-kids-NO.

Having a negative inner voice is super destructive. Having a negative outer voice, that’s embodied by your mom, who’s supposed to love you no matter what? Probably not helpful either.

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