The worst parenting advice I have ever received (for me, anyway) was to speak constantly to your developing embryo, foetus, newborn, baby, toddler. Yes, it’s good they hear your voice and know you. Yes, it’s helpful for their language development and bonding to you. For me, however, I’m afraid that it is not helpful for my daughter’s self esteem.
I am good at being my daughter’s cheerleader, exclaiming glee at her using her potty, and clapping enthusiastically when I see that she’s learned something new and is happy with what she has done. I’m good at calming tears and soothing upset feelings and singing silly songs to make her smile.
Like any parent, when I’m frustrated/tired/annoyed/at the edge, I do not deliver a good performance. In fact, what I hear coming out of my mouth is appalling, embarrassing and I know that for anyone over hearing, I sound like a hideous parent. And the guilt after is so extreme that I carry it like an anvil over my shoulder for many hours to follow.
Growing up, I remember my dad being very supportive of me. He and my step mom went to all my sports games, band concerts and art shows. (Us Midwestern kids are a fairly well-rounded lot. All of these things were mandatory due to small numbers). He spoke positively of my achievements and never discouraged me to give up on big dreaming. However. I very unfortunately to this day remember word for word some of the most hurtful words he’s ever spoken to me. As an adult and parent, of course I know they weren’t my problem. He was just in a bad moment and unfortunately opened his face at the wrong time. It takes decades, though, to reach this understanding. In the meantime, those words roll around in your head and sting you with every recall.
Although I do try to hold my tongue before something short tempered comes out, I have decided the next best thing I can do with L is be honest. ‘I’m sorry I said that. It has nothing to do with you. Mommy is angry about something else. You are wonderful and I’ll love you always.’
Either that or staple my mouth shut. But that seems a bit extreme.