This post is by our resident Mimi, Betty Kay Seibt, who has the distinction of being a mother to three and a grandmother to four (mostly) lovely people.
My beloved eldest child sent me an email the other day with the message, “You need to read this.” Now thanks to previous training at the hands of my own maternal unit, these words strike fear into me. Mama was always sending me things I “needed to read” which usually gave me such information as how a child born in Detroit that week had less chance of living to maturity than a man who enlisted the day after Pearl Harbor had of living to VJ day (we did live in Detroit, I was pregnant with this eldest child, and it was only a few short years after the sad riots of the later 1960’s). So something I “need” to see makes me nervous.
All parents have such triggers. For some, it is the teenager’s “Muuuther.” I hate to spoil this, but my children are all grown up now, and one has two pre-teens, so I am going to spill this before they figure it out themselves and think they are so smart: That one word, accompanied by the rolled eyes is what poker players call “a tell.” It’s as automatic with teens as saying, “And also with you,” is to Episcopalians who hear, “The Lord be with you.” It’s when a mother doesn’t hear it that she pays attention. Either you have said something that made sense to him/her and you must remember what you said, or they are hatching a plot, so you’d better be on your toes.
“You need to read this” is scary because it means my child is invoking logic and outside resources—make that Logic and Outside Resources. He or she is about to prove to me why (1) crappy white bread is really better than whole wheat, (2) all the other teenagers really are getting to go to Galveston for spring break (a tattoo, piercings everywhere—fill in the blank), or (3) I have been caught in a parental lie of some kind or another (the Easter Bunny does bring puppies to good children, etc.). I am used to asking my children to provide supporting logic for arguments, so—naturally—I hate it when they come prepared!
Now, I must digress to say that the beloved eldest child in question here is the Owner/Director of the school, and, as such, is, occasionally (as the children say), the boss of me. It behooves me to listen to her for several reasons. One is that almost 20 years toiling in the classrooms of childcare and Kindergarten has made her very perceptive in the ways of parenting. Another is she’s scary that way. So I got out my trusty smart phone and went to the Huffington Post website to read Rachel Macy Stafford’s blog post “6 Words You Should Say Today.” (Article: http://huff.to/1e2lOn9)
Ms. Stafford’s point is that parents too often try to coach their kids, tell them what they did wrong or how to do it better, talk about “next time.” Her magic six words are, “I love to watch you play.” Change watch and play to any appropriate words, the idea is just to celebrate your child’s being and doing—don’t coach, direct or correct. She suggests that we might find out the magic words do more for our kids than all the words of wisdom we were originally prepared to offer.
I second the motion that you should follow the link and read the article for yourself (and see the precious pictures). Rachel Macy Stafford also has a book, Hands Free Mama: A Guide to Putting Down the Phone, Burning the To-Do List, and Letting Go of Perfection to Grasp What Really Matters! It is scheduled for release January 2014. I’m going to read it.
And since I have never been able to leave well enough alone, may I suggest six magic words of my own? Mostly, but not entirely, I was a stay-at-home mom. My husband traveled. He didn’t always see our kids every day, but I did. As most parents (moms and dads) know, there are days you would rather not see your kids for a variety of reasons—usually, we don’t let that thought intrude too much since, 24 hours later, most things seem much less fraught than they did at the time. But you and I both know, there are days when moms and dads and kids get on each other’s last nerve.
Well, my six magic words are: I love to be with you. Just as Ms. Stafford’s words work with adults as well as kids, mine do, too. We all want to be liked, we want to be wanted and needed, and for someone we love to tell us that is a great treat.
Not, please notice, “I love you.” Yes, we do need to tell our loved ones that we love them—early and often. But sometimes even those important words become jaded. Just tonight, my husband of over 40 years (who spends the greater part of his day on the telephone unscrambling other people’s messes) was on his way to bed. I said, “I love you.” His distracted response was, “Thank you, good-bye.” Had I called him on it, he would (hopefully) have been appalled. But if I had said, “I love to be with you,” just the slight difference in the message might have made him listen up and actually hear.
Thanks, Ms. Liz, for sending me something I really did need to read. And, by the way—I love to watch you teach