Having the kids home for so many vacation and snow days, I’ve begun to realize that it’s time for me to clean up my language. I had no idea how bad it had gotten until I was around them so much. I just hope they aren’t talking like this outside the house. People must think I am a terrible mother! Seriously, this is fucked up. I can’t believe some of the shit they say.
What? Oh! Oh! You thought I meant my kids are swearing a lot. Yeah, I should stop swearing to set a good example but that really isn’t the problem. I have gotten much better in that department, anyway. I have been setting rules about swearing with the kids. Mostly, they self-regulate by bleeping themselves when they want to use a swear word. It’s like watching a Chris Rock concert on Comedy Central. Besides, I drive in Massachusetts. I can never promise to stop swearing as long as I do that.
The language my kids have picked up from me is worse than any swear word I could teach. I don’t use any of the bad swear words (you know what they are). The language I have taught them is much more damaging. If I clean up my language now, I’m hoping it won’t be too late.
I never realized how much my language affected the boys until I heard them using it. Like the other day when Aaron was stuck on his math homework and was becoming frustrated. “That’s it!” he shouted, “I am an idiot! I will never be able to get this right!” Or, when I asked Nic, for the third time, to hang up his coat. “Stupid, stupid, stupid! Why can’t I remember anything!”, he admonished himself.
It broke my heart to hear them talk that way to themselves. I assured Aaron that he was not an idiot and that learning can be difficult sometimes. I joked with Nic that forgetting to do things doesn’t make someone an idiot. If that was the standard, then must Mommy be an idiot.
I couldn’t understand why they would talk this way to themselves. Their dad and I are very supportive of them. We would never dream of using words like idiot or stupid. (Okay, little brat slips out now and then, but, believe me, it is earned.) We praise, maybe a little too much, and we encourage. It didn’t make sense, and the boys didn’t want to talk about it.
Then, one day, the boys were watching TV. One of the show’s characters made a mistake. “I am such an idiot!” she said.
“She sounds just like Mom,” remarked Nic.
“Sure does,” replied Aaron.
They were matter-of-fact. No giggles. No surprise. “She sounds just like Mom.”
Despite all my loving words to them, despite all of my encouragement, my boys were learning to see themselves in a negative light because of me. Because of my words.
Over the next few days, I started to hear it. Every time I made a mistake, “You idiot” was what I said. Out loud. More often than I realized. Comments, like “I hate when I do that”, “I suck at that”, and “I wish I… looked like that, could sing like that, was a better cook, was more organized…” take your pick. Everything that came out of my mouth about myself was negative. All I could think was, I suck.
That night, I told my husband I couldn’t believe how mean I was to myself. I was worried about how it was affecting the boys. “You are tougher on yourself than anyone will ever be on you. The only one who doesn’t know that is you.”
Since then, I have been trying to set a better example for my kids. If I think I have done a good job on something, I will say so. When I make a mistake, I say “no big deal”. Even if my silent thoughts haven’t caught up yet, I am trying to be more positive with the things I say out loud.
I think it must be working, too. The other day, I heard Aaron say, “This homework is so stupid. It has to be the homework, because I know it isn’t me.”