Long ago and far away when I was a young girl, my parents often praised my sister as the “smart one” and me as the “pretty one,” or at least that was my perception.
Early on, I had braces on my teeth. My pre-teen sister was given a choice to have her teeth straightened, but she didn’t think it was important. It is interesting to note that she chose to have braces when she was in her 40s.
Fast forward to last spring, my sister and I were on a trip together and she was typing on her iPad with one beautifully manicured finger. I casually asked her if she missed typing with both hands on the home keyboard. She responded, “I was going to be a doctor, so I didn’t take typing.”
You guessed it…I took a typing class in high school.
Ouch. Still stings.
Don’t get me wrong…I don’t harbor animosity or dwell on this issue, but I find it an intellectual topic worth exploring. Indeed, my sister and I have grown to be THE BEST of friends and after both of our parents passed away, we had an honest conversation about the very personal perceptions with which we grew up.
In 2011, I wrote about a story told to me by a fellow grandparent. As her daughter dropped off her hesitant son at Nana’s house to spend the night, Nana overheard, “If you want to come home, just call me and I will come and get you.”
OH. MY. GOSH.
I am sure the daughter thought she was being a good (protective) parent, but to be worried about a safe haven at Nana’s house? Where else can a child talk freely, learn to be independent from a parent while still being with family, and learn to be flexible in a different routine? The message Mommy gave her 7 year old son was, “You may not be able to do this on your own, so I will rescue you.”
In casual conversation, I hope you don’t say about your daughter and/or son, “Well, she is my athletic one and he is my studious one,” or “She doesn’t like dogs or he doesn’t speak up at school,” or something to that effect.
I promise you that little ears are listening and can internalize those statements. Labels limit a child’s thinking. The message comes across loud and clear as, “Oh, then I must not be studious or athletic, or I must be afraid to speak up in school, or I must not like dogs.”
Albert Einstein is famous for saying, “If you think you can, you will. If you think you can’t, you won’t.”
Think about the messages you are delivering.
Best in parenting,
Director, Meridian Hills Cooperative Nursery School & Kindergarten