Because I believe that words have power, I think a lot about what I say to Linus. For many months I've said the same thing to Linus as I put him down for naps and night sleep. The words came spontaneously and remained unaltered for many months.
"You are sweet and smart and beautiful and funny. Mommy and Daddy love you. Grandma and Grandpa love you. You'll go to sleep and have sweet dreams and when you wake up, we'll have a wonderful afternoon/day."
I believe that the words he hears and the intent behind them will soak into his soul. I want him to have these words written on his heart, so he can carry them with him all his life. I believe it is my job as his mother to lay the foundations of self esteem and that, even this small speech, whispered lovingly into his ear every day, will help him.
To that effect, I started thinking about the words I was saying. I decided to amend two of my words. I decided that, while he is sweet, KIND is the word I'd like to steep him in. "You are kind" became the beginning of my sleepy time speech. Sweet is nice. It makes others smile. But- it feels more surface. Like a veneer of sugar. Kind is nice and makes others smile, but it can be revolutionary in a way that sweetness cannot. A small act of true kindness can change lives. I hope that Linus will have a kind spirit.
The other change I made was prompted by an article a friend shared on Facebook. I started to think about the implications of telling Linus that he his smart. The article made me think. It made me think about the fact that, here in Britain, babies and small children are most often praised for being clever.
Smart. Clever. At first glance, it might just seem to be one of the hundreds of instances where the two cultures have differing preferences for similar words. The more I thought about it, however, I came to believe that there's more to it than that. There is a deep-rooted difference in cultural attitudes in the US and the UK. The US is shiny and new. It is confident, loud and brash. It is full of people who would hold up flashing neon signs proclaiming that they are the greatest thing since sliced bread. And increasingly, children who's parents are willing to spend all their time and energy holding up their signs for them. The UK is ancient and staid. It is self-deprecating and stoic. It's people love to complain, but are also famous for their ability to suck it up and quietly do what needs to be done without a show or expecting of praise. Their is even an unspoken mindset that is isn't done to be too striving or self-confident, or flashy.
I thought about the two words and how they are different. In some subtle way, they are each completely reflecting of their respective cultures. Smart is something that you are- without trying, without doing anything to earn. You are smart because you are smart. Your brain is uniquely, inherently superior. Clever, on the other hand, has a subtle implication of more than that. A clever person doesn't just know the answer. They are intelligent enough to work to figure it out. And I like that. I like the idea of instilling in Linus the confidence that he has the resources to figure things out. That he can work hard and exercise his beautiful mind. That his natural-born abilities are not all he has. He has the resourcefulness to reach beyond himself. Does that make sense? It may just be reading too much into a word, but it rings true with me.
And so, I decided to alter half of my words. I take no issue with the other two. Beautiful is exactly what he is. He is beautiful of body and spirit. His very creation is beautiful, regardless of the (admittedly stunning) package. And funny. He's just so, so funny. Which is important. Terribly important.
So I now tell him that he is: kind, clever, beautiful, funny. Because he is. And he always will be. And it's important that he knows it. And so I tell him.
Do you see a difference between smart and clever?
What words do you want to wrap your loved ones in?