If there’s one thing I’ve learned through writing, it’s to make your words count. Give them value by being thoughtful and actually having something to say, not just shouting to be heard over the din. The same can be said for the spoken word, especially the words spoken to children.
So often, when it comes to raising my kids I feel like I’m talking because I like the sound of my own voice. Ok, if we’re being honest, frequently parenting makes the sound of my voice enough to make me want to punch myself in the face. “Leave your sister alone!” “Stop shouting!” “That’s enough!” “Please put your shoes on. Put your shoes on. ARE YOU PUTTING YOUR SHOES ON?”
I’m becoming acutely aware of how often I should just keep my mouth shut and which phrases are a total waste of breath. My daughter, at 3, has plenty of words to use on her own behalf and rarely hesitates to
shout use them. I don’t often step in to referee the inane altercations my children have over who was sitting where first and whose helping of dessert is more generous. And most recently, I’ve decided it’s time to drop “be careful” from my lexicon.
Here’s the thing about “be careful”: there’s no vote of confidence in those two little words. I’ve heard them slip past my lips so many times. What the hell am I even saying? Is this a weak attempt at assuaging guilt if my kid falls off the monkey bars? Am I suggesting that from my outside perspective, I know more about what you’re capable of than you do? And if whatever it is I’m urging caution about should go wrong, am I telling you you were careless?
Personally, I value intuition over caution.
It was intuition that told me, after a weekend trip to a place I’d never been, that I had to make a life there as soon as possible. Six months later I had saved up just enough and high tailed it out of my hometown where I had returned after a failed attempt at college. Nearly 12 years later, I’m still here.
It was intuition that told me, basically overnight, that a good friend of mine was everything I could ask for in a partner. It took a few days to decipher if I was right or had just had too much to drink, but a kiss straightened it out. I haven’t kissed anyone else in a decade. Now I barely even notice just how much larger his head is than mine. Well, I still notice. I’m just not alarmed by it.
It certainly wasn’t caution that brought us our first kid 15 months later. We had only just stopped living with roommates before bringing in a tiny permanent one. Sure, there was plenty of good reason to wait. We had no money, and while we both had jobs that made us happy, they weren’t the sort of stable income on which most careful people would raise a family. Yet we didn’t think too hard about it. It would figure itself out, because we were solid and it had to.
Nine years, one degree, thousands of written words and a daughter later, we’re about to buy our first house.
Nothing that got us here was the result of painstaking caution.
I want my words to have weight as I set them in the hands of my children. When they put them in their pockets to pull out long after they’ve left my lips, I hope they hear what I’ve reminded when they’re climbing the jungle gym just a little higher than I’d like. What I’ve whispered in their ears as they’ve headed in to the skatepark and what I’ll barely be able to get out before the door closes behind teenagers who say it for me: