I've been pondering this one for a while. When I think of "messages" I think of communication, one person sending and the other(s) receiving. I've written a lot here about different aspects of communication, both verbal and non-verbal.
So I thought I'd change it up a bit and write about the messages we send our children. What are the messages they pick up from our everyday words and deeds?
I remember as a newly pregnant mom I'd heard that it was important to talk to your babies often even though they wouldn't be able to really respond yet. Obviously they'd enjoy the interaction, the attention, and the sound of mom's voice, but it would also help them develop their language and social skills. And what kind of message does such conversation send? I imagine it tells a child, however young, that they are loved, that their opinion is valued, that we're interested in their thoughts.
So I made it a point to talk to my boys, even while I was still pregnant. Sometimes they responded with
After they were born, I kept up our little one-sided conversations... sometimes they engaged with me, with a little smile or cooing. (So sweet!) Other times they seemed uninterested. Language development didn't exactly go as planned, but eventually those conversations became a two-way street.
Fast forward several years.
After Bitty regressed, my attempts at conversation were rarely if ever reciprocated. It was hard because for the first 15 months of his life, he had been sooo responsive. I kept up our little "conversations" though.
I'd ask him a question, pause though not actually expecting any response, and then ask follow-up questions to fill in the blanks. Sometimes I wondered if the message I was sending was "your mother is a little crazy," lol.
Fast forward again to the present. Bitty has come a long way, from being pretty much non-verbal before to now using short phrases and even quoting longer sentences (and singing!). Still, most of his interactions revolve around "the basics" - food, drinks, favorite toys, letters & numbers, and now emerging tiny fragments of "what I did today."
I didn't even realize until yesterday that I am still in the habit of asking questions I don't expect answers to. School was out and dh brought the boys to meet me for lunch near my work. Bitty and I found ourselves alone at the table for a few minutes. He leaned his head on me and appeared to be looking at something.
"Whatcha looking at, Bitty?" I asked. I didn't expect an answer to something so open-ended, his typical response would be silence or maybe an echo of what I'd said.
"Cahz" it was almost a whisper and it took me by surprise. In fact, it took me a second to realize that he had, in fact, answered my question.
"Cars?" I followed his gaze and sure enough, there were two large toy cars displayed up on a shelf.
Oh, but there was more! "Yeh-woh an' wed," he added.
"You're right, one's yellow and the other is red." He continued to admire them, perhaps imagining how much fun it would be to play with them.
I wonder how many times he has wanted to answer before, and if he feels a certain sense of accomplishment with each new communication milestone? The ability to send and receive messages to/from others is one he has worked hard at, and one he continues to develop.
I didn't realize how accustomed I was to not getting a response until that moment - what a thrill to get such a spontaneous answer! It may seem small but I see it as the beginning of a whole new realm of conversational possibilities opening up.
Which brings me back to my original topic - the messages we send our children. Like all mothers, one message I hope to be sending every day to each of my children is "you are loved."
It's why I listen to their assessment of various Pokemon stats and the merits of one over the other in battle, even though I have no clue when they ask me "what's the best water-type Pokemon" or "how do I catch Palkia?"
It's why I spend 45 minutes crawling around on the floor in search of the "mail car" when Bitty decides he must have that one, despite the toy box literally brimming with other trains he could play with.
It's also why I tell them to stop using the back of the couch for a balance beam, make them brush their teeth, and make them go to bed at a decent hour on school nights, even when they insist they're "not tired." Ok, they might be interpreting those as "my mom is a big meanie" instead of "my mom loves me" but someday they'll understand :).
And it's why I keep asking questions, inviting interaction, even when I think it's outside the realm of what I might actually get a response to. Because you never know when that day will come. (Remember Carly?).
I have struggled to tailor my messages to each of my children in a way that will be meaningful for them. How I do that is continually evolving as they grow and develop.
What messages do you strive to send your children, and how do you go about it?
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