I am the Worst
One Halloween my oldest son had gotten his piece of candy and was reaching for another one for his baby brother. The woman wrenched the bowl away from his little hand. “Don’t be greedy! Leave candy for the other children!” she snapped. His face fell and his shoulders hunched. He tried to explain that it was for his brother. We pointed at the little boy in the lion costume while she held the bowl of candy to her chest. We hugged my oldest son and told him he wasn’t in trouble, that we understood what he was doing.
Months later, hours after his bedtime, I came into his room because I heard him sobbing. I asked what was wrong and he said, "I’m the baddest boy in the whole world.” Then he declared he was “moving to Massachusetts!” He’d had a great day so I had no idea why he thought he was “the baddest boy in the whole world.” It took some time but he finally said he still felt bad about Halloween. Halloween? Why did he feel bad about Halloween? He still remembered the woman wrenching the bowl away from him as he tried to get a piece of candy for his brother. My mama heart broke. We assured him that he hadn’t done anything wrong. He was not the baddest boy in the world. We didn’t want him to move to Massachusetts without us.
This child still internalizes everything. It’s so hard to correct any behavior without him saying, “I am the worst.” I’ve started putting affirmations on his wall every week.
I can try new things.
I am kind.
I am calm and relaxed.
I choose my own attitude.
It’s okay to make mistakes.
I suggested he read them while he’s getting dressed for school. He loves them. He always notices when I’ve changed them and reminds me to if I forget.
For a while in college one of my friends would routinely say, “Ugh. I fail at life,” when she made a mistake. I thought it was funny and started saying it too until a different friend said, “You gotta stop saying that. It’s not funny and you say it way too often. It’s not true.”
It’s not true.
How often do we say things to ourselves that aren’t true? Maybe even in joking? I’m a pretty sarcastic person but it can easily stray into meanness if I’m not careful. There have been times when my husband and I sarcastically joked to each other and it upset our oldest son because he thought we were being serious. Then we had to try to explain sarcasm to a six-year-old, which is why we don’t really try to talk to each other until our children are sleep. Sigh. It was also a reminder that they’re always listening. If it sounds mean to my kid, maybe I don’t need to be saying it at all.
On laundry days I will have nothing to wear that doesn’t make me look pregnant and I’ll think, “Ugh. I’m so fat and ugly.”
It's not true.
I often tell myself, “Get it together, Emily!” in an exasperated way.
And I wonder why my kiddo needs affirmations on his wall.
I tend to look outside myself for affirmation. How do I know I’m smart if I’m not getting straight As? Who is grading me?! Quick! Someone grade me! Are you sure this dress looks okay? Do you think it would be okay if I did this?
I know that affirmations of my worth should come from God, that they are intrinsic. I’m really good at speaking good theology to other people but sometimes less good at believing it for myself. I seem to think things apply to everyone but me. There are a ton of Bible verses I could quote but here is one I really love.
Once you were not a people,
but now you are God’s people;
once you had not received mercy,
but now you have received mercy.
-1 Peter 2:10 NRSV
Maybe you also talk trash to yourself. Maybe sometimes it's funny. But maybe sometimes it's not.
In case you needed to hear it today:
You’re part of God’s family.
You have received mercy.
You’re not failing at life.
You’re not the baddest boy in the whole world.
Please don’t move to Massachusetts without us.