Grab a cuppa and a comfy seat, and let’s chat a while.
Monday again Tuesday already! – time not too late! for Coffee and Conversation.
When I was six, my family was driving on a highway late at night. Streaks of headlights and taillights painted the dark. For the first time, I realized that each car held people living lives as important to them as mine was to me.
I wanted to know what those lives were, and to share my own…
Last Saturday, Annalise came to me with a small notebook, and showed me what she’d written in it.
I am me and only me
And you are you
So love yourself!
You are who you are.
-Annalise S. Burton, age 9
I thought she had intended to write a poem, but she held it up in front of herself, instead.
“Here’s my sign!” she said, with a big grin. “Will you take my picture now?”
We’ve talked a few times, in the last months, about the current trend of public child-shaming, especially on social media sites. We’ve chuckled at Elf-on-the-Shelf shaming (she finds the elf creepy at best, and the idea of parents using it to coerce their children offensive). We’ve laughed outright at the hilarious “animal-shaming” parodies.
And then, a week or so ago, I was invited to a Facebook Group which invites kids and their parents to turn the entire concept on it’s ear, and, rather than shaming a child, to celebrate what makes a person one-of-a-kind.
This, then, is what Annalise feels, at nine-and-a-half, and what she wants to say to the world.
Compared to my nine-year-old self, Annalise has a tremendous amount of autonomy. Her wishes are taken as seriously as every other family member’s. She eats what she’s hungry for, when she’s hungry for it, she chooses how to spend her time, what to wear, when to sleep, what to read. She has the freedom to follow her passions, to indulge her imagination, to speak her mind, and to challenge herself in the ways she chooses.
I was no less an individual than she; I had big ideas, things to say, hungers and aversions, just as she does. I wanted to stay up late, to free my imagination, to dive into all the things that fired my spirit and set my mind racing.
Sometimes, I could do what I wanted. When I could, there was often sneakiness involved. I learned to be covert, to keep many things hidden within my mind, guarded against discovery.
It wasn’t a great situation for trusting myself, or feeling that I was all right just the way I was. Honestly, what I often felt was a vague shame that I couldn’t, by my very nature, live up to the expectations my parents imposed upon me, with the good intention of making me into a “decent adult”.
I grew up still carrying that shame, still trying to appease my parents, still feeling like I had to sneak and hide aspects of my life and my self that they would not approve of. Still, not loving myself, but asking myself what was wrong with me.
Learning how to help Annalise and her brother gain the skills and knowledge they need to meet their own needs; to honor, trust, and love themselves, is a journey I’m still taking. My own childhood doesn’t offer examples, and neither does most mainstream parenting advice, which seems to see raising a child very much in the same way as tending a garden; prune away the undesirables, enrich the soil with schooling, maybe also sports or extra lessons, demand they meet expectations.
Our children are more like wild meadows than well-tended gardens. They live according to their own natures, enriched by love and honest interaction, and expected to be – well, who they are. When there’s conflict, we do our best to work it out in a way that allows for everyone to get what they need, a “Win-win”. When feelings burst forth, we accept that, pay attention to what lies beneath, and then find our way back to peace.
Given the choice between what happens when a child feels shame, and when they feel at peace with themselves, I choose peace.
And maybe that’s why I have a nine-year-old who chose to write this message, and share it with anyone who reads it. Maybe it’s behind her wide, confident grin, in her easy assumption that we’re all who we are, and we should just love ourselves.
Maybe, if all children could feel this way, there wouldn’t be parents who feel that publicly shaming a child – or anyone else – is a good way to attain a goal. Maybe there’d be a lot more of love, and peace, and self-acceptance.
Now, please go out and love yourselves! =)
How have you loved yourself lately? Treated yourself to something you wanted? Really looked at yourself in the mirror? Indulged yourself with a gift of time? I’ll replenish your cuppa and listen, and the hugs are free; let’s converse! =)