This post is by Sarah Powers, Happiest Home contributor and Managing Editor, and blogger at Powers of Mine.
What did you say when you saw your kids out the door this morning? When they climbed onto the bus or out of the car, when they loped across the school yard with a backpack half their own size? What were your parting words?
I think mine were something like this: Bye! Love you! Oh, wait – c’mere – let me wipe your face. Okay, bye! Have a great day! Drink lots of water! See you at 2:00! Oh! Don’t forget to take that form thingy into the office please – otherwise you’ll be on the only one in your class who doesn’t have a school spirit shirt. Love you!
I’m a mom of many words. I talk a lot – to my kids and with my kids. It’s perhaps both a strength and a weakness in my parenting. On the one hand, I’m great at explaining things, working through new ideas and tough situations with words, giving names to things they don’t understand, playing with words in rhymes and songs and jokes, helping them find words to explain how they feel. And when they talk, I’m a pretty good listener, because as a talker myself I know the value of someone who really listens to what I have to say.
On the other hand, in parenting and life, sometimes less is more. And it’s become increasingly apparent that my kindergarten dropoff valediction needs some ruthless editing. Our school has a drive-through dropoff line aided by parent volunteers who open the door, help each child out of the car and into their backpack, and send them off through front gates of the school. It’s a well-run system and it happens fast. No lingering hugs, even for new kindergarteners like my own. Wham, bam, thank you mom.
All this has me thinking: if I had to say one thing (instead of fourteen) as my daughter leaves for the day, what would it be?
When my siblings and I were kids, my mom used to say to us: Be your best! I remember her explaining later that this was a conscious choice. For her it meant being the best versions of ourselves, as opposed to a more achievement-oriented “Do your best.” Of course this is just semantics, and there’s nothing wrong with wanting (or telling) our kids to do their best, but I have always appreciated knowing what the difference meant to her.
Three little words, chosen carefully, repeated often. And I remember them well.
When you think about it, so much of what we say to our kids comes in these bite-sized three-word phrases.
From the instructional…
- Clean your room
- Wash your hands
- Please don’t whine
- Tie your shoes
- We don’t hit
- Shut the door
- Use your manners
- Comb your hair
…to the inspirational
- I love you
- You are enough
- Believe in yourself
- Follow your dreams
- Find your path
- It gets better
- I trust you
- Live your life
- Try your best
- Give your all
- Trust your gut
- Open your heart
As things ramp up this school year – with more permissions slips to sign, show-and-tells to remember, and with them the temptation to turn the drop-off line into a logistics meeting – I’m going to scale back. All the way back to three little words.
Maybe in time I’ll find my own three-word phrase that my kids will hear echoed in their footsteps as they march confidently (or cautiously) in the direction of their dreams. But for now I’m starting with the very basics: the only three words my kindergartener really needs to hear when she heads off to school: I love you.