The danger of the story

  1. You get stuck in that belief.
  2. It’s an old story, and also it could be wrong.

I don’t know how often my mom told me some version of “You can’t do this.” It could have been twice. It could have been 200 times.

It might as well have been 200 times, because I took it in and held on to it for a very long time, causing a tremendous amount of self-doubt.

When my daughter was around kindergarten age, we were briefly stopping over at my mom’s, and I don’t remember what it was about, but I had shared with her my daughter’s accomplishment.

My mom smiled, and she said, “she can’t do that,” half speaking to my daughter.

I suddenly felt a mixture of knowing that she is totally kidding to “Oh my God!” to “Mom, you can’t say that to children. They don’t get those kinds of jokes.”

I saw that this was a part of how she communicated, and I could see that she was proud of my daughter. And also, I had an immediate gut knowing that this is how she spoke to me as a child, and I didn’t get the challenge back then. It’s as if she expects the child to lift up her chest and say, “Oh, yes I can!” And then show it.

The other part of this incident with my daughter is that I realized that if I weren’t fully present in the moment to pick up on my mom’s subtleties, and if I was busily multi-tasking our brief visit to pick something up, I could have missed the whole opportunity. I would have been triggered by my mom’s words and have taken them the way I received them as a child, and I might have said something out of anger (and she would have had no idea where it came from), or I might have said to myself, she’s not seeing my daughter again.

Instead, I got that she loved my daughter, was doing what she thought was playful, and it was an opportunity for me to correct a few things lovingly “Of course she can! Madie, tell us…” Then: “Look, Mom, children take things literally. She won’t get your joke or challenge. Please don’t say things like that to her.”

It was a good lesson for me, which I think about to this day as I look at my 21 year old daughter and think to myself, “I don’t know what my story was, but it wasn’t what I thought, and thank God.”

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