As a guide to help you discover and speak your truth – rattling my tambourine to help you stop saying yes when you mean no, asking for permission, justifying and apologising for yourself – I thought it apt to have a look at how my daughter, who’s 6, is travelling in the speak-up stakes.
My girl has a boyfriend. Three actually. The latest was announced just yesterday. Boyfriend 1 is a charming young man, and the one I know best. He even kissed me on the lips – the lips! – before he went to bed on a night I was visiting his parents.
My girl was invited over for a sleepover. Boyfriend 1 has a queen size bed, so the plan was that they’d sleep together. My girl put Boyfriend 1’s large stuffed crocodile down the centre of the bed, to separate them, so they wouldn’t kick or roll into each other in the night.
From me, my girl gets a big tick for this. Excellent boundaries.
She doesn’t like being kissed by Boyfriend 1. He plants sloppy smackeroos right on her cheek, and it makes my girl cry. Given that she is 6 and it takes presence, courage and mastery of language to respectfully inform him of her feelings, crying does the job quite well. Boyfriend 1 is at times confused that she doesn’t enjoy his smackeroos. I imagine, in time, he’ll get used to all sorts of confusing behaviour from women.
For showing her distaste for the smackeroos, for being so honest, I give my girl another big tick.
My girl started at a new school this term. It’s where she met Boyfriend 1, and the attraction was instant. They’re like a pair of long lost soul mates. Daily, Boyfriend 1 is sent home with a piece of paper marked with either red, yellow or green to denote his standard of behaviour. He has a penchant for poking people and creating other disruptions for his classmates.
According to her teacher, my girl has been an excellent influence on Boyfriend 1. Despite his hearty encouragement for her to join him in his wayward behaviour, she never does. My girl says no!
From me, she gets another big tick for this. And I also make a note to myself to keep an eye on this one. Is she behaving well because that’s true for her? Or is she more concerned about being a good girl and pleasing her teacher?
It’s a tricky one.
We demand our kids do what they’re told. Respectable members of society don’t behave like animals, after all. There are
guidelines a stack of rules and regulations for holding it all together. In classrooms, families, organisations… Maintaining your connection to your truth, let alone speaking it, is one hell of a mission.
My girl’s new school has the parents raving about the ability of its staff to hone in on each child’s gifts, honour them, and encourage them to the nth degree. I’m thrilled. Within a day of starting at this school, my girl was transformed. A different child. I kid you not. Happy, engaged and excited, it was as if her spirit reached all the way to Santa’s Magic Cave.
One of the gifts identified by my girl’s teacher is her helpfulness. She asks my girl her for help all the time. It makes her so very proud, and she comes home and tells me how much she helped today and what a great helper she is. And then she promptly reminds me that she only does that at school and isn’t interested in being helpful at home. In the interests of balance, of course.
I listened to a talk recently by a behavioural consultant who said that kids feel like valued members of a household, and society, when they help. I can think of all the times I haven’t wanted my girl to help me because she makes such a mess, especially when cooking. I’m trying to become more tolerant. It’s a very slow process for me.
I award a tick for my girl’s propensity to help, as well as a note to myself to keep an eye on this one too.
I hope that in trying to be so darn helpful my girl doesn’t get laryngitis and find herself unable to say no to taking on requests that aren’t her truth. I hope that service to others doesn’t blind her to her own needs and desires.
There are times recently when my girl’s used these words – I don’t want to tell you – to pre-empt a conversation with me. It’s a classic manipulation strategy to soften the potential blow. And I admit, it works.
I hear myself saying You can tell me anything. Because I’d hate for her to think she can’t. And then when she informs me that she’s lost her sports rugby top when she’s only had it for a few days, or dropped navy blue ink all over her bedroom carpet, the idea is that I’m kinder and softer in my response. And I probably am.
For this, I can’t quite bring myself to offer a tick though. There’s a lot to be said for not trying to set up a confronting conversation this way. It doesn’t leave room for learning to take place. It can inhibit real connection. And worst of all, it buys into the notion that confrontation is awful, bad, evil – and must be avoided at all costs.
For the record, the word confrontation means to be in front of an issue with someone. It’s all about being up front, honest, and owning it. Done well, a confronting conversation deepens and strengthens relationships. It can be so very beautiful. Truly.
It’s my girl’s life, not mine.
My deepest desire for her is to know herself, her soul’s calling. To live and speak her truth without fear or shame. To express herself – her life – powerfully.
May it be so.
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