Just Be You: On Cultivating Our Children’s Sense of Self-Worth

Nothing you become will disappoint me; I have no preconception that I’d like to see you be or do. I have no desire to foresee you, only to discover you. You cannot disappoint me. ~Mary Haskell

In the library last week, I parted the covers of a Naomi Aldort book to find this quote. It moved me so deeply that I stood motionless amongst the other library patrons, riveted in my tracks. It’s a beautiful declaration of acceptance and love, one that is so profound in its simplicity. It’s exactly what I hope to impart to my son as his mother.

Over the weekend our neighborhood hosted  St. Louis’ annual Pride festival. The festival’s theme this year was Be You. Under Sunday afternoon’s broiling sun, we squeezed in, shoulder-to-shoulder with other excited festival-goers along the parade route, and clapped and sang and cheered for what there can never be too much of in this world:  acceptance and authenticity.

What I remembered as I celebrated acceptance and authenticity this past weekend is this: Our children are unique little creatures. We are constructing their confidence and sense of self-worth every day. It is often ridiculously easy to get caught up in what parenting media tells us our children need to be “the best” in life. “Best” is subjective, frankly. And, ultimately, “best” will be up to our children. But for now, when we honor their communication, when we respond to their cries, when we feed on demand with love, when we wear them close, and when we use gentle discipline approaches, we are surrounding them in another message so profound in its simplicity: You matter.

And I full-heartedly believe that an adulthood filled with Be You is grounded in a childhood filled with You Matter.

I will consider it my most tremendous success in motherhood that my son feels valued and empowered enough to simply be himself, to walk proudly and confidently in this world, no matter what the smallest minds in this universe may think of him.

Be You, my lovely child, whatever that looks and feels like. I have no preconception of you. I am so eager to discover you. To support you. My love is unyielding and boundless, kid.

*Looking for interesting reads on cultivating your tot’s self-confidence? Try here and here.

Rhianna feels her pride and admiration for her 18 month old son swell a little every day.  She loves her rainbow-bedecked St. Louis neighborhood a little more every day, too.

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7 thoughts on “Just Be You: On Cultivating Our Children’s Sense of Self-Worth”

  1. Great quote. It is so easy to get absorbed in one’s own desires for one’s child, and forget a very simple thing like “be you”…

  2. Lovely post. I JUST read that quote yesterday, I’ve just started Aldort’s book.
    Thinking about it though, it’s not strictly true for me. (Seriously shock confession coming up) I absolutely believe in unconditional parenting and will love my child forever no matter what.
    But.
    What if… what if she turned out like Mugabe?
    I would be a bit disappointed. patented.
    Does the quote hold true though because of the unlikeliness of an unconditionally parented child turning out like Mugabe?
    I feel this is a bit of a naive question but I’d love to hear your thoughts.

    1. It’s not a naive question! I think it’s something we’ve all wondered, as parents: what would test the limits of my love for my child? Someone on Facebook said something similar–what if her child became a lost drug addict? She would be disappointed in that. If my kid became the next Hitler or Mugabe, would I be disappointed? I think the answer to that…is…maybe…yes. And I’d be horribly, deeply disappointed in myself, too. Perhaps I am the naive one to think that an attached, gentle parenting approach is the greatest protective factor and precludes these kind of extreme situations. I would wager that a@$holes like these weren’t parented in an environment in which we’re currently nurturing our children. No evidence of that, just a hunch.

      P.S. I’m curious to hear your thoughts on the Aldort book when you’re finished! Have you gotten to the chapter on tickling yet? I can’t say I agree with it…in fact, it’s kind of bothering me! My experience (as a child and as a parent) doesn’t support her assertions at all.

  3. What a beautiful quote. That expression of love and acceptance is at the core of how I try to parent. Hopefully that’s what my son is learning from me. Thanks for linking this post to The Sunday Parenting Party. I’ve pinned it to our board on Pinterest.

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