This is also me.
I never considered myself anything of an oil painting, to borrow an old phrase. In fact, if I was a character in an Agatha Christie novel I’d be considered “homely” rather than “comely”. And that’s okay. That’s me.
My six year old son, however, believes differently. He says to me yesterday “Mummy you’re SO pretty. Every single day I see how pretty you are”. The child is six. He knows how to lie (“No, Mummy, it wasn’t me who spilled all that water out of the bath. I’m sure it was Daddy”) but he has no idea how to lie well, so I have no choice to believe that what he says is – at least in his mind – true.
My son knows well the value of words and how good they can make you feel. This is why he says these things to me. He sat on my knee at the dinner table the other night while I read his school report out loud. It was his first “proper” report, with all the details and everything. It was wonderful, he’s a wonderful kid. But oh how I could feel the pride surge through that little body as I read words like “excellent”, “very good skills”, “well above the expected level”. He wriggled with joy, his smile about to split his face fully in two. I thought to myself that the next time he feels down I’ll have to read his school report to him again 🙂
Made me remember though just how powerful words can be, for good as well as for bad. I wrote in Monday’s post about a parcel of criticism that was delivered to me when I was young, and over the past few days I’ve realised what a forest of mighty oak trees grew from the little acorns in that parcel, from the words that I had no choice but to believe about myself. It feels good to look at those trees and know they are not part of me, and bulldoze them down. It makes me hyper-aware, too, of the language I’m speaking over my kids, especially when I’m mad at them.
My hair isn’t as red as the “me” in the painting, but my cheeks are. And yes, I do wear as dippy a face as that when I’m sucking the life out of the smell of roses. I’ve been teased about both of those things over the years, and thrown words that would try to mold me into somebody else’s idea of who I should be. Words don’t go easily, but I can get rid of them, and the thing I find is that when those mighty oak trees finally fall the ground where they were is rich and fertile for the me that I was all along underneath to grow.