If how we talk to our children shapes their inner voice, I want my words to be kinder.

I believe that how we talk to our children becomes their inner voice.

And? Lately I've realized that I'm shaping my oldest daughters to have critical and sometimes harsh inner voices.

But? I refuse to accept the lie that says "this is just how I am." I know I can do better for all of us. But lest this all sound legalistic, let me be clear: my motivation isn't to be perfect or flawless. I know myself too well to aim for that nonsense. I just want to show more grace. That's the goal here. 

So I got myself some bracelets. I was going to use Silly Bands, but I had these jelly bracelets from Oriental Trading handy.

(Because, ahem, I ordered them for Jocelyn's and Patience's 7th birthday parties and tucked them away and promptly forgot all about them. Yes, the girls are 8.5 now. Don't judge.)

I'll probably still order some Silly Bands, since these have a strong plastic smell and are hard to put on because they're child sized while my hand isn't. I don't want to wait until they come in, though. I feel a sense of urgency to change how I talk to my girls. So these will do for now.

Here's the plan: The bracelets will start on my right hand each day. With every affirming statement to one of our big girls, I'll move one over to my left hand. With every critical statement to them, I'll move one back to my right wrist. If I'm tempted to say something critical but I don't have any bands on my left hand or only have a few, I'm planning to let it slide as long as there's no immediate safety risk. This will require me to have stored up affirmation before anything critical passes my lips.

Over time, I might tweak the system. While I'm ultimately aiming for the good to substantially outweigh the critiques, I think evening them out is good for now because that's still an improvement from how it's been lately. Maybe in time I'll change the process later to move two or three over for each critical statement so that I make sure the positive words are said more than the negative, but this is my first step.

So far, my personal competitiveness - that same drive that pushed me to improve my times and scores in high school swimming and golf - is pushing me to do better and one up myself, which is making me a more encouraging mom already. In other words, it's working. And with all of the kids a little more angsty lately, I'm hoping a changed mama will lead to a changed family. 

I want to enjoy them. I want them to enjoy me. I'm not talking about being a friend instead of a mother, but I do believe I can and should be friendlier than I've been lately. 

Will this keep working? I'm not completely sure. But I do know they are worth trying something, anything, even something as silly as wearing rainbow colored children's bracelets. After all, I want their inner voices to be uplifting, empowering, loving, kind, merciful, and full of grace.

And I want my voice to be all of those things too.

Note: I'm not sharing this for accolades or atta girls. I'm sharing it to be real. I'm also sharing it because I'm guessing I'm not the only one who is struggling with this. Finally, I'm sharing it because I find that posting ideas to the blog makes me feel more accountable to follow through with my intentions, even if no one ever asks me about it. Call me crazy, but going public gives me a sort of personal accountability I can't quite explain. So, there you have it. Here's to changed attitudes in my home, starting with mine.

What if we all agreed that different parenting choices don't have to be wrong?

Two of my children entered full time preschool last week. Yes, that's the same 6.5 hour schedule my older four have in elementary school, while most preschoolers in our area go a few days a week for half days.

For one, she needs the long days to fit in therapies and a nap and the building of endurance she'll need to (most likely) be mainstreamed in a typical kindergarten class with peers whose bodies aren't fighting against them with spasticity from cerebral palsy.

For the other, she is ready ready READY to go to school like her siblings. Knowing she didn't have the best start in life, we had her evaluated for the Title 1 preschool program in our district, which serves four year olds who are at risk for academic difficulties in kindergarten with the aim that the high quality, full day preschool program will set them up for success instead. She qualified. We didn't know until a few days before school started that she'd have a spot, though, because she had been waitlisted. Thankfully, a spot opened up in the program operating at the big kids' elementary school, so she goes there with them now, starting and ending 30 minutes earlier than they do so the little ones aren't overrun by the big kids.

Like I said in my last post, these are big changes for all of us!

As far as preschool goes, we didn't do it for any of our other children. One wasn't with us in preschool, so that's easy to explain. One was having too much fun being the only girl and the big sister whose little bro adored her, and I equally didn't want to send her anywhere and didn't want to have an external schedule of pick up and drop off and all that jazz. Her learning style worked just fine for working on early learning skills at home, and that suited us all best. Then the boys didn't do preschool because one was joining our family and adjusting to all that meant and the other, with us from the womb, was helping with that. Oh, and he was also having seizures that we didn't get controlled until just before kindergarten started, so there's that.

All that to say, preschool decisions are different for every child.

So are most parenting choices.

My children are not your children, and your children aren't mine, so that means our child-centered choices about what's best might not be the same.


That's okay.

Our world operates on affirmation, though. In school, it's grades and rubrics and standardized tests and other measures of one singular norm. In the workplace, goals and performance reviews and raises, in which the specific job is considered but comparisons against other workers are also common. In parenting? I think the only real universal bar is "they're still alive at the end of the day." Of course, feeding and love and learning and so on are all part of that too, but examples of terrible parenting are clear while the range of good parenting is harder to define. 

Going back to the preschool example, I know friends who have felt judged for doing preschool or not doing preschool or doing too many days of preschool or doing not enough days of preschool or doing a too churchy preschool or doing a too secular preschool or spending too much on preschool or choosing a preschool with long days or being relieved when it's time for school to start again or crying too much when school resumes. And that's not even including the parents who work full time and so have their preschool aged children in some sort of program or childcare environment during business hours year round and the judgment they feel for that.

(Side note: Rock on, working parents. You're doing great, and you'll get no judgment from this stay at home mama.) 

What if we all agreed that different parenting choices aren't wrong?

Can we decide what's best for our kids and then not trouble ourselves with those who disagree or trouble others by trying to force our family's best onto their different dynamics?

And can we also recognize that sometimes we're not really being judged, even when we think we are?

(I could go on a tangent here about how you're actually judging someone when you judge that you think that they're judging you, but I haven't had enough coffee today to make that make sense.)

I could have made this about breastfeeding and bottlefeeding and tube feeding or private vs public vs home school or therapy intensives vs surgeries vs assistive devices or Botox vs Baclofen vs SDR (yes, we do it in special needs parenting circles too) or something else altogether. But? We've started two in daily preschool programs that are longer than the norm for our area, especially for families with a stay-at-home parent like me. 

I'm sure this is the right decision for our crew, and this post is my way of saying that. This post is also my way of letting friends know that I am 100% okay with whatever preschool choice they're making too. Parenting is hard enough even when it's a judgment-free zone, am I right? 

So enjoy this new school year, no matter what it brings and no matter what it looks like for your family. And? Be forewarned that at any moment in the coming weeks I might be celebrating that my days are child-free or mourning that I miss my babies.

Being sure of our decision doesn't mean being in control of my emotions, after all.