Yesterday was one of the golden days. All the timing was just right. Everyone was in a good mood. The day was easy. The little one took a two hour nap before the big one was ready to rest, which meant I got to spend some lovely one-on-one time with the big one.
I get to spend almost no solo time with the boys individually. I realized that about a month ago when I was playing ball with Calvin for the first time while Ellis was reading with a neighbor. Calvin and I had never just played the two of us in his whole life!! Don’t get me wrong, he plays a lot, but it is almost always with a toddler tackling him. Exclusive mommy time is a very special treat around here.
It is a treat for the big boy too. Ellis spends a lot of time waiting for me to feed Cal or waiting for his brother to wake up or go to sleep and for the most part he is really accommodating. So the fact that we were able to sneak two hours of mommy time into the middle of the day meant we really didn’t want to waste it.
First we had a picnic lunch on the kitchen floor, just because we could. Ellis enjoyed the perfect autumn light for a little longer.
We played real legos (not duplos) which we can only do when Calvin is asleep. We put together a really hard puzzle that required undivided attention. And finally we made banana bread.
This is the conversation we had over mixing bowls and measuring spoons:
Ellis: “I’m a picky eater”
Me” “Who told you that?”
Ellis: “You did Mommy”
Well dang. My heart sank a little because the time has arrived when Ellis really is hearing everything, but more dangerously he is at the age where he is who we say he is and I want to be very careful about the truth we tell him about himself.
Kids don’t create their interior voice out of thin air. Their Jiminy Cricket is largely borrowed and constructed from the way we talk to them and about them.
Now Ellis IS a really picky eater. We struggle with him trying new foods or some days, any food, at every meal. We asked him to try a drop of chickpea soup a few weeks ago and he cried real tears. I am half convinced that he is an air plant. But even so, I don’t want him to think of himself as a “picky eater” because I don’t want it to be a self-fulfilling prophecy. I don’t want my label of him to become the way he thinks about himself.
We have always been extremely conscientious about the language we use around our kids. And I don’t mean we don’t swear (although we don’t). I mean we have figured out that the language we use is what our children become.
We started this back before Ellis had any words. We didn’t want to use the word “no” with him. Mostly because we didn’t want him to use the word “no” with us. So instead we said a lot of “not for baby” and then we would redirect. But Ellis was learning to talk in the dead of winter and we needed a serious word for danger particularly around the woodstove. So “hot” sort of became our substitute word for “no.” And of course “hot” was Ellis’ first word and it became his catchall for anything not good. We could always tell if Ellis was getting into trouble because he would alert us with “hot, hot, hot.”
Yesterday I was wishing Ellis was more proficient with the word “no” so that he could have countered my description of him as a “picky eater.” But until he starts building the legos of his identity with his own words I am going to be extra careful about the words and ideas I tell him about himself. If I want him to be “good” and “adventurous” and “brave” and “kind” I have to let him hear that first.