The following post was inspired by Elizabeth L. Silver’s novel The Execution of Noa P. Singleton. Mere months before Noa’s time on death row is coming to an end, her victim’s mother changes her mind about Noa’s sentence, and vows to help stay the execution. Join From Left to Write on July 30th as we share posts inspired by the story. As a member, I received a copy of the book free of charge for review purposes.
Each day, I say thousands of words to my kids. In an ideal world, all of them would be glowing — words that build them up, words that spark creative thinking and actions, words that shed a tiny bit of light on the depth of my love for them. In an ideal world, they’d never question where they stand in the world or in my heart.
But, the truth of the matter is my words can be harsh. “No!” “Absolutely not!” “You’re smarter than that.” “I expect you to know better.”
I can tell myself this is just the stuff of motherhood. What mother doesn’t lose their cool? What mother doesn’t say these words? Over and over and over…
When I think back to my childhood, chances are I heard the same words I find myself saying. I’m pretty sure of it, though I don’t remember them really. I’m lucky that, in my case, the reprimands and scoldings taught me right from wrong. They helped me learn to solve problems and build a good moral compass. But most importantly, the harsh words aren’t the ones I remember. Because my parents made sure I knew everything they did was with love.
When I think back to the words my parents used that defined my childhood, they aren’t words of anger, taunting, or disappointment. I hear, “You’re a shining star.” “Aren’t my smart?” (What I used to say as a toddler, and my parents constantly reinforced.) “I love your smile/dress/sense of humor/insert anything and everything here.” “Love you!”
My mom jokes that I’ve got a selective memory. But the loving words were there. And I heard them. I believed them. I embraced them. Enough that they rose to the top and buried any momentary frustration — and even overshadowed the times when I was a real disappointment.
There’s no question that I want the same for my kids. I want them to think back to laughter, dancing, and words that remind them how much they are truly loved. Each one for their unique, wonderful talents and personality traits. And each one in spite of how many times I have to tell them to stop bossing/taunting/bugging each other.
My words have more power than I remember sometimes. I truly hope that the ones filled with love and admiration are what will echo in my sweet little ones’ heads for a lifetime.