We all know that kids have the tendency to speak their minds unfiltered. We call it that “childlike innocence.” However, when does it cross the line from honest observation into meanness?
Most of the things we hear children “observe” is because they are learning that others look different from themselves or from their own families.
- Mommy, why does that person only have one leg?
- Because, something happened to their leg, and the only way to save them might have been to lose their leg. We should be really happy they are still here with us.
- Mommy, why does that person’s face look like that?
- Because, a fire might have burned their face, but they survived, and we should be so happy that person is still alive.
- Mommy, why are Daddy and I brown, and you’re white?
- Because, God loves art just like we do, and He wanted to make people in all different colors just like all the different colors of flowers.
- Mommy, why is that woman so big?
- Shhh! Things like that might hurt someone’s feelings. God makes everyone in all shapes and sizes.
We went through all of this in the toddler years. I tried to teach my little one that not everything is nice to say, because people may have their feelings hurt.
Now, she’s in elementary school, and she is generally a very sweet, sensitive, and loving kid. However, she has had an obsession lately with pictures of me from when I was in high school or when I was back at my high school weight when she was a toddler. I cannot explain the nuances to her at this point of what depression is, how it caused me to gain 40+ pounds when she was four, and how it’s much harder in my thirties to lose weight than it was in my twenties. She’s seven; she won’t get any of that.
So, for the past year, I’ve heard, “Mommy, you were so skinny and so pretty when you were nineteen” and “Mommy, you were so beautiful when I was a baby.” She draws me pictures, saying, “Mommy, this is you when you were nineteen, and you were pretty.” We’ve taken it as innocent observations, but my husband always comes to my defense, pointing out, “Mommy’s still beautiful now.”
Recently, she began pointing out that I don’t exercise like she thinks I ought to. I just bought a new gym bag, so I could get back in the routine. She tells daddy, “Why is mommy buying a gym bag? It’s not like she ever exercises anymore.” Okay, ouch. There’s some kids’ brutal honesty for you there. But, then a week later, she told him that her stuffed cow reminds her of mommy…. That’s when the line was crossed.
My husband told her that mommy is beautiful in every way, and she should be thankful to have me for a mom instead of worrying if I look like other moms. He reminded her of how we’ve always said that words can hurt. I know she doesn’t want to hurt me, but I’m hoping she can take this lesson of saying this to her mom and never say mean things to anyone else. We have now entered the stage of “learning to filter” and are hoping that she will now choose her words only to make people feel better instead of inadvertently tearing them down.
Motherhood is a journey! Have you had these conversations? What do you say?