I can run down a mountain like the wind. My toes barely touch the dirt before I lift off, every rock that is dangerous to someone else is a spring board to me. I run, leap, and slide like I was designed for it. I’m sure I don’t look graceful, but I am able.
Yet, my entire life I have believed I was clumsy. Uncoordinated. Accident-prone. I tripped and stumbled and fell often, not just literally but figuratively. I didn’t feel capable, not like I do now. That was who I was, I was the clumsy one, the gangly girl — all knees and elbows. The one who couldn’t ever be a ballerina because face it Melanie, you just aren’t graceful enough.
Words have a tendency to become reality. What you believe is what you do. If you don’t think you can, you won’t. If you are told you can’t often enough, you just might start to believe it. So I am very careful with my words now, especially with Emi.
I don’t call her clumsy. I don’t tell her she can’t, that she’s too small, that she isn’t strong enough. You want to lift mommy’s tire? Go for it! You can’t right now? Try again tomorrow. Tomorrow you’ll be stronger. When we fear for our children, we put fear into them. So, I tell her she is strong, fierce, a hard worker, insistant, and capable. I believe she is able and I speak strength into her.
I still set limits for her, I don’t let her do everything she wants just because she thinks she can, but I try not to interfere if I can help it. I mean, she’ll have to hold off on the knife juggling until she’s four. Until then, I let her try. I let her fail. Most times, I let her fall. And you know what? She gets back up. She always gets back up.
She needs to learn her own limits, to learn to not only trust her body but to respect it. How can she listen to herself if I am constantly shouting over her? Instead, I sit quietly by. Far enough back that she isn’t in my shadow. And when she needs it, when she looks my way with hesitant eyes, I tell her “I believe in you.”
Because she can do it, she can do anything.