Remember when you were a child and you had clay or Play-Doh (I hated the smell of that stuff)? You had opportunity, potential sitting in your hands to mould something. Something unique and all your own. Bring it to life by whispering words of encouragement through your fingers.
Children’s minds are a lot like Play-Doh, not yet formed and waiting on those words of encouragement. Waiting to be moulded into good little beings hopefully laying the foundation to a balanced adulthood. In my Play-Doh days, I was only successful in making vases, little ones. I don’t recall wanting to make anything over than little vases. So my encouragement went into those sticks of clay willing them from blobs to vase greatness. A pretty simple relationship one on one. Unfortunately (or fortunately for some) the development of children is not a one-on-one dynamic.
Let Her Eat Cake
My parents were quite encouraging during my childhood. They probably bordered on indulging me but it was clear that they cared for their only daughter. I was told I was beautiful, my intelligence was affirmed and my reading and writing outside of school was strongly encouraged. A few of the adults in my parents’ circle of family and friends didn’t approve of the way they were raising me but my parents weren’t detracted.
When I was in the 5th grade, my uncle had a barbecue. As the most senior member of the family, his house was the assembly point. I could always look forward to my Uncle Darcy getting drunk and telling a few home truths. At this point in the story I have to tell you this about myself – I am and have always been a picky eater. My family HATED this but my parents paid them no mind. At this particular barbecue, I didn’t eat most of the food on offer (the usual for mini Reds) but I wanted some chocolate cake my aunt had baked. (I LOVE boxed cake – don’t judge me). I don’t know where everyone was but no one was around except for one adult – my cousin’s mother-in-law who I will name Millicent. As I approached the cake, Millicent said to me “Now you know you are too big to be eating that cake”.
So I didn’t eat it. Now I know this seems like something inconsequential but its not (I am actually crying as I type this because this memory reminds me of the struggles I have faced since then). Millicent said this to me when no adults were present. Had my father or uncle been in earshot, they would have cursed her out something special. Millicent was a child educator. These two factors tell adult Reds that she should have known better and probably did.
Millicent’s voice became my voice whenever I wanted to eat something. “Girl you know you are too big to eat that pizza”, “Girl you know you are too big to eat that rice”. My relationship with food was cemented and damaged. As an adult, I don’t feel comfortable eating in front of people. I purposely eat less so that my lunch dates don’t judge me for being too fat for eating so much.
When I was in the 5th grade, I choked badly scratching my throat. For two months after that I did not eat. Not a single thing. I lost so much weight. It was my first diet – I’ve been obsessed with dozens of fad diets since then. And I still heard Millicent’s voice but I was proving her wrong because I wasn’t eating anything! I didn’t share this story with my mother until I was an adult because I feel like a child every time I relive this day.
I share this story because we sometimes whisper words carelessly into the ears of children. Some of those words drift through their minds not making an impact but other words stick and you can’t flick a switch to filter what should and should not scar their impressionable souls. As adults we should be aware of how we behave around children because we don’t know what line of our plays they will memorise and replay.
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This hit me personally. Growing up VERY dark skinned with horrible eczema invited lots of image damaging comments. I can honestly say I’m STILL healing from those whisper words.
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Thanks for sharing this story. Enjoy all the cake you wish.
Well, that is truly a thought provoking piece, especially for me as the mother of a young boy. Sometimes I cringe at some of the things I say to him in the heat of the moment and under great stress. I always take the time to immediately apologise if I have been out of order and explain my reaction. I would hate to think I was damaging his delicate psychology. A lesson for all parents.
Thanks for sharing love…so powerful,true and also very sad. 😦 It takes strength to be this vulnerable and to be able to empower others at the same time to not repeat this. Thank you….