I am 6 years old. I am in first grade. I am smart. I eat well. I love myself.
When I read those words my daughter had written one evening in her journal, I couldn’t be happier. To know that your daughter has self-love, and a strong sense of confidence is invaluable. At first when I read those words, I chalked it up to how she's wired. We got lucky, very lucky. Our daughter is just a naturally confident girl, and doesn’t suffer from low self-esteem issues that plague way too many girls in this country.
It’s funny how things unfold though – you’ll see what I mean shortly.
The night before, it was Daddy’s turn to stay with Addie before tucking her in and saying good-night (Frank and I alternate each night). While Daddy was sitting next to Addie in bed, Addie was lamenting about her age, something she often does, as she’s one of the youngest ones amongst her friends. "Being young" might not seem like that big of a deal, but in her mind, it's comparable to being "the smallest one" or "the one who's always picked last for sport teams." She has an August birthday. And in a school system where the cutoff for the year is the end of September, she’s usually one of the youngest in her class. So all her friends are starting to turn 7, and she still has to wait a bit. Since she was feeling down about herself, Daddy gave her a pep talk... which I'll elaborate on in a bit.
Rewind a few days back, I was at the Library of Congress attending the 2016 inauguration of the National Ambassador for Young Children's Literature, Gene Yang. For those in the DC area, this is a bi-annual free event open to the public that I highly recommend, as it was such a privilege to hear both Gene Yang (an energetic, funny and inspirational force), and the outgoing ambassador, Kate DiCamillo (her words are a gift to us all), speak. After the event, I stopped by the gift store, and bought Addie a Writing Journal. What I liked about it, was that on every page, it had a suggestion at the top on what to write about, which I think is very helpful for young writers.
So now back to that evening where Daddy gave Addie the pep talk, it just so happened she couldn't fall asleep that night and came downstairs looking for me. I happened to remember then that I hadn't given her the Writing Journal yet, so I let her know that I had something special for her. I gave her the journal. She immediately asked if she could write in it that evening. My first instinct was to say no, because it was late, and a school night, but I saw how excited she was about the journal, and decided not to take away from that moment - and I told her that she could write in it for a few minutes before going to bed.
The next evening, when I came into her room to close her curtains, she told me she loved the journal so much, and she thanked me for it. The topic on the first page was, "Write about yourself." I asked her if I could read what she wrote, and this is what I saw, "I am 6 years old. I am in first grade. I am smart. I eat well. I love myself."
I told her I loved that she had written in her journal, and that I loved what she wrote. I quickly went to find Frank and tell him how lucky we were to have a little girl with such confidence.
Turns out, I was a little bit wrong in attributing Addie's strong sense of herself all to her personality. Frank shared with me that during his pep talk with Addie the night before, he reassured her, and reminded her of the goodness she brings to the table. Even though she was only 6, she was definitely just as tall as all the 7 year olds, if not taller (she's always been on the taller side for her age). And even more importantly, he reminded Addie that she's got a lot to love about herself. She's smart. She can do everything her 7 year old classmates can do, if not more. She eats amazingly well, has an impressively sophisticated palate and is always willing to try new foods. She's very kind and thoughtful. That night, Daddy reminded Addie that she has a lot to feel good about. And those words, not only cheered Addie up in the moment, but permanently added to Addie's evolving sense of herself in a beautiful, positive way.
Remind, your daughter/son, always, of all the reasons they have to love themselves. It does make a difference.