I think language is a funny thing. We can often misconstrue what people mean via email or text because we can’t hear their context. But even if we can, it can still come across the wrong way.
This has been extra challenging for me as a parent because I am often (not always) trying to choose my words carefully. Kids don’t understand nuances. They can’t read into the deeper, underlying meaning of your words. They pretty much take things at face value. They are also little parrots and when my words that I frequently spill from my lips were repeated back to me, I realized I had made a big mistake.
For the first time in all of our parent-lives, my husband and I caught the tummy bug on the exact same day at the exact same time. It was brutal and something I wish to never repeat. I was curled around my toilet, leaning my head on the cool porcelain when my youngest came over to me.
“Oh, Mommy. You’re OK,” he said, patting my shoulder.
No, son. I’m not OK.
I bristled immediately. Yes, he was trying to comfort me … but I was NOT OK. I was sick and miserable. I know that “dad cold” may be a thing but I think I have that times 10. When I’m sick, it’s hard for me to imagine ever feeling healthy again.
As Milo patted my arm, I thought “No. I’m not OK. But I will be OK – just not right now.”
Of course, I didn’t say any of this because half my head was in the toilet … but it made me realize how often I tell my kids that they are okay. This is an odd thing because what I mean is that they are safe and that they will be ok. It wasn’t until I heard the words repeated back at me that I realized how insensitive they were. I don’t like when people presume or tell me how I’m feeling – and I am sure my children feel the same way.
It really made me take a deeper look at the words I use when I talk to my kids. I don’t want them to ever sense that I’m telling them how to feel. While you can control your mood, you can’t always control your feelings. You are going to react the way that you will, and it’s up to you to unravel that and decide the best path forward. Reactions and feelings are immediate; moods are determinate from the decision you make about your feelings.
And when I tell my children that they are okay – even when they don’t feel okay – I’m basically invalidating their reaction / feeling.
Clearly this is a weird trigger for me.
I’m sure not everyone will feel similarly, but for me it was such an eye-opening moment. I know he repeated it because I’ve said it to him a hundred times.