Evie got a new helmet for her bike. It has a dry erase surface and comes with cool neon markers so you can make your own design, over and over again. Evie is 5, so this is the perfect helmet because she knows–of course–that she can make much better helmet designs than any store. Much, much cooler. So, where I would choose something pre-designed, she was all about DIY. Even for an extra $5.
She rode to school today rocking her first design. She made it last night but I had not seen the totality of the masterpiece until this morning. Her name, hearts, squiggly lines. And then at the stop light she turned her head towards the other side of the street and I saw what she had written across the right side of her new headwear: “I like me.”
I caught my breath. What an amazing thing to want to put out there for the world. Evie did not ask me how to spell any of these words as she designed, so she came up with that slogan–and spelled it correctly!–herself.
I pondered it all the way to school. I like me. I like me. Evie likes Evie.
Does she know about self-love? Did someone teach her about liking herself the way she was and it sunk in, or did she just feel that way without any teaching? Sometimes she’s so hard on herself–did she like herself just last night, or does she like herself in a deep, long-term, sweeping way? Would other kids think she was stuck up? Was she stuck up? Could she be convinced to never erase that part?
By the time I was back home, I was thinking about whether Lauren likes Lauren. She does, mostly. But she would not put it on her helmet. She might just think it very quietly after working out, or making great dinner, or drinking kombucha on the porch. She has worked hard to like herself, and there have been times of serious non-like. And some days and hours of non-like still. Remembering to like is still sometimes trained, rather than spontaneous, and quiet, rather than racing across the street in neon with training wheels.
Maybe we all start out liking ourselves, and then so many things in life happen that shake that like. And the goal is to come back to where we started.
Having two girls changed my self-like for the better (crazy since having kids changed my body and my sleep and my time…). Two amazing, powerful, fragile, brilliant, crazy people in my care, growing and learning and messing up everything every day. They have already faced some of their own “things in life that happen”–their own five-year-old and nine-year-old hardships. It is so hard to watch as a loving (rather awesome) momma. Often they just have to go through those parts of life, finding their way and waiting for a new day to try again.
But sometimes, I get to help or offer advice. Then I get to practice advising someone I dearly love how to be safe and well and happy. It’s a daunting task and I learned, as I tried to complete it over and again, that I often doled out suggestions of what I thought could bring happiness that I was not myself following.
For example, I used to be bulimic. It was long ago and I am better now (I thought you’d wonder; thanks for mentally asking), but even after recovery I used to struggle sometimes with the desire to purge after eating too much of something unhealthy. It seemed like an easy, relatively harmless shortcut to feeling in control again, and I took that shortcut every now and again, without feeling I was “unhealthy” overall.
And then one day, as I was contemplating the toilet after two donuts, or something ridiculous like that, I thought of my kids. Evie, in specific. What if she sometimes freaks out about what she eats? What if she opened up to me about her insecurity and asked what she should do if she ate too much and felt guilty?
“Go to the most remote restroom you can find. Wait until you’re alone, and gag yourself until you vomit. It is worth it to cancel out a donut. I mean, you don’t want to have eaten a donut, DO YOU?”
AHHH. I mean, I would never in a million years say that. Only a super villain in a very avant-garde Disney movie (with an oddly wide range of plot points) would say something like that to a child.
But, that was what I told myself. That was what my inner voice was saying to me. It doesn’t get much farther from “I like me” than that. I was my own super villain. And I decided it was not okay.
So I started giving myself advice as if it was something I’d say to my kids. If it sounded like something I wanted for them, it was good to do. If it sounded like I was Maleficent, well, that was a no.
“You ate two donuts? Probably they were awesome donuts, and everyone indulges sometimes. Go for a walk. Eat oatmeal tomorrow. You are okay and life is short and some days have donuts and don’t fret.”*
While my practice is not perfect, I have come so far in the last several years. I am so much kinder to myself. So much happier. Maybe some future day, I will have come so far that I will want a blank helmet, and I will make it say “I like me.” Just like my daughter.
My greatest accomplishment today was that I raise the girl under the “I like me” helmet. My goal is that she, and her sister, and their mom, and everyone else out there, can say that–and mean it–forever. <3
*I ate 5 maple leaf cookies while I wrote this post. They were so delicious. Maybe I’ll have oatmeal for breakfast. But maybe not.