The recent revelation is that my words are what has shaped (and will shape) her thoughts about herself. It's one thing to hear and understand a concept like this, but it's completely different to know through observation and experience. Here's how the revelation played out for me.
Layla and I were walking hand-in-hand across the parking lot during our Daddy date. The conversation was something meaningless about the princess pull-ups we were going to buy. Out of nowhere she says, "Dad, I don't need makeup. I'm beautiful without it!" She looked up at me, smiled, and batted her eyelashes. She continued to look up as we approached the curb and then bunny hopped up on the curb with both feet.
I affirmed her by agreeing, "Yes, you are beautiful without makeup!" After a short pause I inquired, "Did somebody tell you that or did you figure that out on your own?" She quickly responded, "You tell me that all the time, Daddy."
Layla is right that I frequently tell her how beautiful she is, but only recently have the fruits of my words been visible... and audible. Americans get 3,000 commercial messages every day! Marketers are telling our children they need what the company is selling in order to be special, successful, beautiful, happy, etc. My heart was thrilled to hear Layla proclaim the truth about her beauty in a declarative manner. It is hard work to overcome and counteract the mass marketing of the world continually telling her otherwise.
As I tucked her in at night I watched as she slept and it hit me that I am her inner voice. Her self-image and confidence is built on the foundation of my words. I've been talking to her since she was in Kendra's belly. I remember as we followed the baby development stages through the course of Kendra's pregnancy. The week when Easton and Layla's hearing developed was the week I started talking to them. That means over 5 years of continually telling her how special she is and how valuable she is and how beautiful she is.
There were a couple of times she verbalized some negative nonsense she heard or felt. I walked into her room to find her sitting on her floor a few months ago. She was sad and distressed. I have no idea how she ended up in that situation, but it doesn't matter. I asked, "what's wrong, Layla?" She said, "I'm not pretty." At that moment I had many options of how to respond.
Vengeful - Who said that to you? I'm going to go beat them up!
Uncaring - Don't worry about it, you're ok.
Self-sufficient - you shouldn't believe them. you don't need anyone to tell you how you feel
Teasing - Well, that's true you're not pretty. I'm just kidding.
Mean - That's true, you aren't pretty
Perfectionist - Well, if you put your hair up or wore makeup or painted your nails then you would be pretty
What Layla needed to hear is what I said, "You ARE pretty! You're the most beautiful princess in the world. I'm the king, right?" She nodded, I continued, "then you are the sparkle in my crown!" She accepted my words as truth and my authority as king Daddy. problem solved. Her smile returned, she gave me a hug and jumped back into playtime.
Layla is old enough to choose her own self-talk (the thoughts in her head). I'm comforted to hear her speaking words of life based on the file of truths I've built in her over the past 5 years. As she gains her independence day by day I gladly support the transition because what she thinks and believes is already established. My influence as a Dad will continue, but the cement is set. She won't have to jack-hammer out bad sections of lies or negative words because even though I'm not perfect, I am consistent, careful, and intentional about the words I use. Her audio recorder is always running...
See you soon