I don’t like to write too much about parenting here, mainly because I don’t feel like I have enough parental wisdom to use that as a topic for my writing. Sometimes, though, I think my husband and I do something particularly well and I do like to share those experiences in order to inspire or encourage other parents. Being a parent is hard. Really hard, and I think we can all use a little more encouragement and a little less personal flogging in that department.
That said, I had to write this post. Its topic makes my heart sing every time I witness it, and it’s something I don’t want to forget. Hopefully, too, it will make you think a little.
My daughter, not yet three years old, calls her daddy “sweetie.” Sometimes it’s “sweetheart,” but usually just “sweetie.”
He walks in from work, and she greets him at the door with a hug and, “Hi, sweetie! I’m so glad you’re home!”
She is upstairs and needs something from him, so she calls down the stairs, “Sweetie? Sweetie? Can you come here for a minute?”
He praises her for something, and she says, “Aw, thank you, sweetie.”
Can I even tell you how much that touches this mama’s heart?
The first time or two she did it, we were surprised. Did she just say that? Really? Then we thought, “Should we correct her? Is that okay? Seems weird…” And then she kept saying it, and we thought about it.
It was at that point that we realized how special and profound it is. She calls him “sweetie” because that is what she has heard. She has learned what she witnesses on a daily basis: me greeting him at the door with a “Hey, sweetie,” and a hug. Me calling to him from another room in the house: “Sweetie? Can you come here?” Him handing me something as we clean up from supper, and me saying, “Thank you, sweetie.”
We’ve been criticized at different points in our relationship for being too lovey-dovey in our language. When we were dating, others in our small group from church would feign disgust at how we talked to one another, and my family has poked fun at us more than once.
You know what, though? None of that matters when I realize that the way we speak to each other is affecting the way my daughter sees the world.
She is growing up believing that affectionate language is normal and even expected. She is growing up seeing that her Mommy and Daddy love each other, and from the way we love each other, she is learning to love others, too. She is growing up feeling safe because Mommy and Daddy don’t use harsh language with each other. She is growing up seeing love, and will grow up to expect nothing less for her own life.
He calls me “honey,” and I call him (and HER) “sweetie.” She learns, therefore, that when you love someone, there are certain ways you talk to them.
I’m okay with that. Will someone think it’s weird that my little girl calls her daddy “sweetheart” sometimes? Probably. Will I correct her? No. She is reminding us every time she does it that she watches our every move and hears our every word, and I could stand to be reminded of that.
With every “sweetie” that comes from her mouth, we understand a powerful truth: She is learning what she sees, and we are the most influential models she has. That is our job.
I am reminded of something I read once:
If children live with criticism, they learn to condemn.
If children live with hostility, they learn to fight.
If children live with fear, they learn to be apprehensive.
If children live with pity, they learn to feel sorry for themselves.
If children live with ridicule, they learn to feel shy.
If children live with jealousy, they learn to feel envy.
If children live with shame, they learn to feel guilty.
If children live with encouragement, they learn confidence.
If children live with tolerance, they learn patience.
If children live with praise, they learn appreciation.
If children live with acceptance, they learn to love.
If children live with approval, they learn to like themselves.
If children live with recognition, they learn it is good to have a goal.
If children live with sharing, they learn generosity.
If children live with honesty, they learn truthfulness.
If children live with fairness, they learn justice.
If children live with kindness and consideration, they learn respect.
If children live with security, they learn to have faith in themselves and in those about them.
If children live with friendliness, they learn the world is a nice place in which to live.
(Dorothy Law Nolte, 1998)
Home is her first school, and we are her first teachers. Calling her daddy “sweetie”…well, it’s a different way of doing things, but it works. And I’m not going to correct her anytime soon.
“Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.”
(For more reading on this subject, I recommend a sermon by J.C. Ryle (adapted by Tony Capoccia) entitled “The Duties of Parents.”
(Note: Those of you who know my family may be confused by my reference to Jennifer. As my girl gets a little older, I’m giving her a pseudonym anytime I reference her in my online space. When I asked her what name she would want if she could have any name in the world, she said Jennifer. So Jennifer she shall be! Here, anyway….)