Do you remember that famous scene from The Help where the nanny tells the little girl: “You is kind, you is smart, you is important”? The nanny was stepping in as a mother – and a mother’s words have power.
I remember seeing the movie and feeling the potency of this scene. I could see the little child almost like a sponge absorbing every word. Those words have the power to inform who she will become as she grows into a woman one day.
Recently, while visiting my mom in upstate New York, we were talking about this very idea. She gave an amusing analogy and compared an adult to “a cake that is baked.” (She often uses this analogy!! lol)
What does she mean by this?
How a mother’s words become the ingredients of your cake batter:
As a parent, the words you use are literally like added ingredients, forming a batter that is unique to your child. Over time that batter is “baked” and becomes the blueprint for your child as she navigates the world around her.
Once baked, it’s impossible to remove one ingredient. The sum of all of the ingredients has blended together.
This is the power of the words we choose to tell our children.
My mom’s interpretation of this theory is poignant because her mother passed away when she was only 25. But in those 25 years, her mother laid the important groundwork that inspired her to become who she is today.
My grandmother was a no-nonsense kind of mom. She was English and wasn’t overly affectionate in the way many moms are today. But one thing resonated deeply: she believed in her daughter.
Even when my mom made mistakes, her mom always believed in her. She believed she could – and so she did.
How my ingredients came together:
This goes the same for me. My mom’s words were never frivolous but they encouraged me to believe in myself enough to achieve big things.
Yes, I’ve had other struggles that came from different ingredients (my father’s ingredients weren’t as helpful – he was an absentee dad). And I’ve had my share of things to work through on that front. But those foundational beliefs gave me deep roots, and have encouraged me in more ways than I could ever imagine.
The messages we find inside are profound. When we have ingredients that say: you are smart, you are kind, and you are important, we can relax and trust what we know to be true about ourselves.
Also, thankfully we can rework our beliefs about ourselves that need to be changed through therapy. Science has proven that neuroplasticity allows us to rework and rewrite some of those thoughts, patterns, and beliefs that don’t serve us.
Taking a look at the batter:
So stop and take a look at the batter inside of you. See what messages you discover. What were the vibrations of the words our parents said to us? And what did we learn from them about ourselves?
If our kids are older, do we have a chance to influence the batter with the words we choose to say?
It’s not too late to start now. It doesn’t mean that you can change the batter (I’m not sure exactly when the cake is fully baked lol!). But maybe can you use loving mother’s words to add the icing on the cake. Your words may continue to speak powerfully to your child.
Some ideas of words expressing the purest love for little children: You are kind, sweet, and loveable. You have a pure heart full of love. You are smart and thoughtful. I’m so happy you are here.
Words for an older child: Deep inside, you have all of the answers. You are wise. You are capable. Everything you need is within you. Your presence lights up every room that you enter. This world needs your gifts. I believe in you. You are worthy of everything your heart desires. You are loved.
Do we ever really stop needing to hear these words?
Are you expecting, or do you know someone who is? Read this letter to expectant mothers here.
Do we ever stop mothering? No – not a chance. And we also need to remember to mother ourselves.
Also, do you find it hard to express the mother’s love you feel? Read powerful quotes for mothers here.
(This story was originally posted on July 26, 2021, and has been updated for thoroughness and clarity.)