“Enough Minecraft. Your brain is going to turn to mush.”
“No, Rose! You’re going to kill yourself up there!”
“Get out of bed, you lazy bum!”
“Bring up your dirty clothes. Your room smells like a sewer. And make you’re bed while you’re at it.”
“No more cookies. I am putting a lock on these cookies.”
“Rose, seriously, stop it! You’re going to be lucky to live to see your second birthday.”
“I think I’m throwing away $400 every month on all these music lessons. No one ever practices.”
I’m pretty sure I said all of these things yesterday.
Then I saw this quote on Facebook: “Be careful how you speak to your children. One day it will become their inner voice” –Peggy O’Mara. My first reaction was, “Great, one more thing to feel responsible for.” Which was followed quickly by, “Whatever, that’s not true!” And then I remembered back to my own experience, early in the week, where I found myself sitting at my computer, open to the Boden sale page, squinting at photos of models who make every dress look good, and wondering what might work on me.
And then I hear the voice: “Let’s look at dresses with drop waists, Shelah, because you have a little bit of a tummy.”
When I look at clothes in a store, this is the voice I hear. When I look at myself in the mirror and suck it in, this is the voice I hear. Looking back, the comment seems pretty gentle and innocuous, but for the first thirty years of my life, it was the voice that told me I’d always be a little bit chubby, and for most of the last decade, it’s been the voice that’s scared me into staying skinny.
It is, of course, my mother’s voice.
I hear it when I bake. I hear it when I feed my family cheese quesadillas for dinner. I hear it when I don’t put on makeup or choose not to dry my hair, or braid my girls hair. I hear it when I make decisions about how to decorate my house. I hear it every day.
I guess I’ve known for most of my life that my inner voice is my mom’s voice, but it scares me to think that my kids’ inner voice might be my voice. It’s one of the responsibilities of parenthood that no one tells you about at birthing class. Yesterday was just a normal, easy parenting day, when no one cried because they hadn’t been invited to a birthday party or had deep questions about the state of their existence. If I can be so flippant and harsh in my everyday interactions, I worry about how I sound when there are hard questions. I worry about the damage I’ve already done– the phrases I’ve already put in their heads that they will hear when they’re 38 years old.
I hope my kids come away hearing:
“Make good choices.”
“Don’t get yourself into dangerous situations.”
“Take care of your things.”
“You can do it.”
But if I want them to hear those things, maybe I need to actually say those things.
I can work on that. I might even be able to do it. Eradicating my mom’s voice in my own head will be a little harder.