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 ingredients of our cake batter
She said it’s just like mixing a cake batter. As a parent or influential adult in your child’s life, you’re adding ingredients to the batter. These ingredients all blend together and form a batter that is unique. Over time that batter is “baked” and becomes the blueprint for your child as she grows up.
After it’s baked, it’s hard (or even 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. We are mixing those ingredients. And we’re not talking about frivolous ingredients like coconut flakes or nutmeg. We’re talking about the basics: eggs, butter, and milk.
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 wasn’t full of gushy, mushy accolades – but one thing resonated deeply. She believed in her daughter.
Even when my mom went off the tracks and made mistakes, her mom 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 the foundational beliefs that were positive have helped me in more ways than I can 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 in need of upgrade.
Taking a look at the batter
Taking a look at the batter can help us to see what those messages were. 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 re-say the words that may not make it into the batter anymore?
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 that continues to speak powerfully to your child.
Some ideas of words 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.