Words.

My mama is a force of nature. She tells you what she thinks, and if you don’t like it, well, that is too bad. She is not afraid to speak her mind or stand up for what she thinks is right (or wrong). Growing up, she was a dynamite, and most people like to say it was her red hair that gave her the firey temper. But I think it was living a life of constantly being pushed down and told what she couldn’t do, that caused her to rise above and shout at the world. Sometimes, effectively, sometimes…well…my mom would talk to a tree. And if it talked back, I wouldn’t be surprised.

I grew up with this force, walking the line of watching my tone (as to not incur her wrath) and being a “Chatty Cathy”. All of my report cards would have that nice line of straight A’s and the conduct grade of “S” (‘Satisfactory’– the second highest conduct grade). Never did I get an “O” (for ‘Outstanding’–the highest possible conduct grade). The explanation was pretty much always the same: “Natalie is a terrific student, and gets along well with others, she just talks too much.”

Bill hates listening to us talk when me, my sisters and mama get together, because we tend to talk OVER each other, and it sounds like a lot of noise, but we can follow the conversation and know exactly what is going on.

Basically, we’re talkers.

It is no surprise that both of my girls are talkers. They’ve both been talking since before their first birthday, stringing sentences together before they were 18 months old. They could fully articulate what they wanted by their second birthday. Words have never been their problem.

As a parent, I have walked that fine line, of wanting my children to be polite, how to be nice and kind to people, but also wanting them to be assertive and stand up for themselves. While I was a talker, I was never someone who stood up for myself. Other people, yes. I was the champion for the underdog, but never for myself.

I think it was my inner turmoil: wanting to be a good girl, but wanting to stand up for what was right. I could justify standing up for others, just not myself. I just rolled with it, and didn’t want to cause a fuss. Don’t get me wrong, it was never anything serious, maybe something as silly as not wanting to play a game the other kids did, or going along for the ride when maybe I didn’t want to. I was so busy trying to prove to the world my mother had raised a “good girl” that I never found my voice until I was much older.

On Wednesday, I had a parent/teacher conference, where I was informed that while Olivia was doing very well and starting to socialize more, she was having a problem standing up for herself, and using her words, especially when she was being wronged.

Bill and I had noticed that Olivia was very good at using her facial expressions and waving when people would acknowledge her, but was really not speaking when spoken to, except at home and around those people she was comfortable with. We both said we wanted to work on it, but didn’t know how to do it without pushing her to do things she wasn’t comfortable with. We were kind of at a loss.

Her teachers suggested just keep reiterating “Use your words, Olivia” “Use your words”. So I decided that was what I would do.

Wednesday afternoon I talked to her and said “Olivia, you know you can speak up and use your words if something is going on that you don’t like, right? Your words are important Olivia and you are allowed to say when something makes you mad, sad, or upset.”

I just kept that mantra going all day Thursday, “Use your words, Olivia, your words are important.” This morning, I told her “Today, Olivia, I want you to use your words, okay? That’s the new rule. Use your words!” On the way to the car, I told her that we were going to practice. “Good morning, Olivia, how are you today?” I said. “Good morning.” Olivia responded, grinning. “I can also say “hi, or hello, right, mama?” “Of course, baby!” I smiled.

At her school, some of the faculty stands by the gate after it is opened, welcoming the students. “Olivia, we can practice using our words.” I whispered to her. She grinned at me.

“Good morning, Olivia.” One of the teachers said.

“HI!” Olivia smiled. I smiled.

When we got to her classroom door, I knelt down to her and gave her a big hug. “What are we going to do today Olivia?”

“Use my words.”

“YES! But wait, What is the rule for today?”

“Use my words!” Olivia was grinning by now.

I asked her about five more times, just making a funny game out of it, Olivia erupting into giggles every time I would ask and she answered.

Her teacher smiled at me and said “Good morning Olivia!”

“Good morning!” Olivia said, and walked into her classroom, her head high.

I always try to remember to put a note into her lunchbox. Today’s note?

Dear Olivia,

Mama and Daddy love you very much. We hope you have a terrific day.

Remember: Your words are IMPORTANT!

Love,

Mama & Daddy

When I picked Olivia up today one of her teachers came up to me, gave me a smile and said “She did awesome today, she had a great day.”

One of Olivia’s classmates came up to her and said “BYE Olivia!”

She waved, and I prodded “Hey, where are your words?”

“Bye!” She said.

I grinned.

We walked out of the gate and another teacher commented on the airplane she had made out of an empty paper towel roll.

“That’s cool, Olivia!”

“Thank you!” she said.

Another parent commented on how awesome the airplane was.

Olivia smiled and said “Thank you!”

My mouth hurt I was grinning so much.

It is a small step, but it felt so good.

Words. We have to learn to do more than say them. We have to learn to use them. It’s an important lesson for me to remember too, even at almost 30 years old: Our words are important. MY words are important.

4 comments to Words.

  • So very, very important. Good for you for encouraging her!

    [Reply]

    Natalie Reply:

    Thanks, I can’t believe I didn’t think of it sooner! It’s all kind of new to me ;o)

    [Reply]

  • Thanks for sharing this story! JD still doesn’t have many words, but this gives me a reminder to encourage him to use them, especially in public. He gets shy and sometimes even puts his head down when strangers say hi to him. I think practicing with him could help. Parents have so many things to think about!
    I also worked hard as a kid to be a “good girl”; I just didn’t want to rock the boat- you know?

    [Reply]

    Natalie Reply:

    This parenting thing is hard, man ;) But I am incredibly proud of her and hope this means we don’t have an issue when she is older, since we are stressing the importance of it now.

    [Reply]

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