“Echo is the voice of a reflection in a mirror” – Nathaniel Hawthorne
It was a pretty typical morning as far as routine goes, only this time Kiddo was moving as slow as frozen molasses taking over 3 hours to bathe, get dressed and make her bed. “Finish your breakfast please,” I said, “then bring your bowl to the sink and brush your teeth.”
“Okay Mama,” was her reply. I then headed down the stairs to finish up some laundry.
Ten minutes later I found Kiddo crawling on the floor with the dogs. Her cereal was still untouched and teeth not brushed.
“So I noticed you have been horsing around a lot” I said approaching her, “and now your bad choices are causing us to run late.”
Though I had already brought each incident to her attention as they occurred, I began listing out each of my complaints once again:
1. Playing in the bathtub without first washing up only to have the water turn cold and then complaining; 2. Not making your bed but instead rolling with your covers on the floor; 3. Taking over an hour to get dressed and still coming out to the kitchen half naked; 4. Spinning around under the table with the dogs rather than eating and brushing your teeth like I asked.
Seeing we had less than twenty minutes left, I put on my “Micromanager Mom” hat. “If you want to arrive with yucky breath that is up to you,” I said. “But I am leaving as soon as I am done brushing my teeth.”
As I reached for my toothbrush and toothpaste, I could see my daughter glancing at herself in the mirror with a look of judgment on her face.
Any other day I might have missed this teachable moment, but this week I have been doing some mirror exercises and self talk techniques, so I was able to notice my daughter was learning to criticize herself for the choices she had made.
A caption of her facial expression might read, “You are a screw up. Can’t you ever get anything right?”
I knew beating myself up for this wasn’t the answer, so I used this as an opportunity to remember some common false beliefs: believing you never measure up no matter what, believing no matter what you do is never enough, believing you can never do anything right, believing you need to be perfect in order be deserving of love.
“You know,” I said, catching her eye in the mirror. “It really doesn’t matter what I think or what your dad thinks when it comes to your choices, you know. What really matters is what YOU think.”
I rinsed my toothbrush then got down to my daughter’s level so I could lovingly look her in the eye “Kiddo, you are perfect exactly as you are,” I said, “And it is really important you remember to be your own best friend, even when things get messy, okay?”
Kiddo’s frown turned into a smile as she began modeling some mirror work for me to see: “I love myself,” she said, “And mistakes mean I am learning and growing, right?”
I began to laugh “Yes, that’s right, and I am really sorry that I told you your choices were bad. They are just information,” I said.
We then spoke about her playing with the dogs rather than eating all her breakfast.
“I still feel a little hungry,” she said.
We then went through the remainder of the list, only this time my daughter discerned for herself how each of her choices had impacted her morning.
“Mama,” she said holding me close, “I don’t want to horse around in the morning anymore.”
“Awww,” I returned her hug then looked at her through the mirror. “Just keep loving yourself no matter what. It’s all okay.”
PS: For those of you wondering, I still choose to call my daughter “Kiddo” here out of respect for her individual privacy.