I have never really been a “filter my speech” kind of mom. I curse like a sailor (I’m trying to curb that) and speak far too openly in front of my toddlers. My not-quite-verbal 2-year-old doesn’t really understand much, so I’m good there. His almost 3-year-old sister, on the other hand … well, I have come to realize just how much of the world around her she has soaked up. Which is why there are certain things, nine of them to be exact, that I will never say to or in front of her (again).
“You are so tiny.”
As a short girl myself, I can remember how much I hated it that I was small. I cried my way through an entire “petite” section when I was twelve. The clothes weren’t as cool. My friends were all tall, skinny and gorgeous. I was tiny and “cute.” Maiya, who has a form of dwarfism, is tiny. At three, she stands 30 inches tall and weighs just under 22 pounds, and while I think tiny is perfect, someday she might feel less than when someone calls her “cute.”
“Give hugs and kisses goodbye” when she clearly doesn’t want too.
Why would I force her to be affectionate toward someone, myself included? Many a time I have headed out the door and she has refused a goodbye kiss. Do I force it on her? No. Does my heart break a little? Of course. But it’s her choice. Someday when she is older and someone wants her to kiss him/her, I want it to be her choice, not done because I pressured her from an early age to show affection when she isn’t really feeling it.
“Nice little girls don’t lift up their dresses.”
She is not quite three; of course she is going to lift up her dress. She’s exploring her body, and while yes, I would rather she not bare-ass it through a family party, I refuse to shame her into not doing so. Instead I will teach her to be respectful of her body and the bodies of others. I will teach her to be confident in her skin, not conservative because someone else thinks you should be – though she may decide someday she wants to be. And by the way, the statement “Nice girls don’t lift up their dresses” is just untrue. I have met many “nice” girls who, after a few too many tequila shots, think they should be paid in Mardi Gras beads, myself included.
“Slow down and be careful.”
Why should she slow down or be careful? Where does being careful get you besides the sidelines? Reminding her to be careful at every turn is going to teach her two things: 1) the world is scary and 2) it should be approached with caution. Do I believe the world can be scary? Sure. Does that mean you should be fearful? Hell no. Of course I don’t want her running around recklessly, but in my opinion there are better ways to express that than “be careful.” Instead I will tell her to think before she acts, before she speaks, and if she decides to throw caution to the wind, encourage her to go for it. Mistakes are inevitable, and so are skinned knees and broken bones.
“Are you sure that is what you want to wear today?”
Of course she is sure. She picked it out, and while it might not be what I would have put her in, she is old enough to know what she wants on her body. Today it just happens to be argyle tights, a ballerina tutu and her brother’s football jersey.
“Why don’t you use the yellow crayon for the duck?”
This one might seem a bit silly, and I’ll admit it was to me at first. But after saying this to her one day and having her ask me, “Why (y)ellow (d)uck?” it struck me that maybe in her world, ducks aren’t yellow. Maybe ducks really are pink and blue with green squiggles. The point is, she is far too young to have anyone, especially mommy, stifle her creativity. As long as it’s not on my dining room wall, you can color your duck however you choose.
“No, you can’t have a second cookie.”
Why? I eat as many cookies as I want to on a daily basis; just take a look at the polished-off package that once contained Oreos. It took me a pretty long time to figure out there was no shame in out-eating my husband. So if she wants a second cookie, she can have a second cookie. I probably won’t give in to the third and fourth cookie, but a second cookie isn’t going to hurt. No need for her to develop a fear of cookies now.
“Big Girls Don’t Cry.”
Listen Fergie, I appreciate the sentiment of the song, but you are seriously full of shit. Big girls DO cry. So do little ones, and so do boys. Boys cry too. I cry all the time. Because I am PMS’ing. Because I am too damn tired to deal with one more insane toddler behavior. Because I am laughing so hard it hurts. Whatever the reason for my tears, they are right, because emotion can never be wrong.
“You are perfect.”
No you are not, no one is, and you know what? You shouldn’t try to be. What I will tell her is this: you are perfectly imperfect, and so is mommy. That’s what love is, loving someone’s perfect imperfections unconditionally. And little girl, I love every inch of your flawless imperfection with all that I am.