It’s a Wednesday morning. My daughter and I get ready to make our way to school. During the process, I head upstairs to do a check of her room. The fuckening begins. Upon reaching the top of the stairs, I’m met with a sight that causes me to stumble. Words are caught in my throat.
Language. Words. Semantics. Rhetoric. Expression.
I consider the ways I speak to my daughter. When I discipline her, I am stern and curt; most times I feel the most conversation I offer her is criticism. I’ve learned to check myself. To applaud her efforts. To ask about her day. To put more ease in my voice. To ask her how she’s feeling.
It’s allowed her to open up to me though, at first she was skeptical. Her responses were staccato-like. She didn’t know how to receive the woman whom she had come to process as authoritative, rigid, not relatable.
As I take a moment to let the anger settle into something more manageable, I consider all the ways she is frightened of me because of my reactions. I could use this instance to react differently.
I’m reminded of how frequently she asks me about my childhood and upbringing. When this line of questioning began, I was annoyed with the types of questions she asked until I took a moment to realize that her line of questioning came from trying to draw similarities between us. She wanted to see if there was a point in which we intersected rather than this continuous parallel that didn’t seem likely to meet at all. After ascertaining pieces of my upbringing, she’d make conclusions and assert the ways in which her and I are the same.
I’ve lived with myself for nearly 30 years. In that time, I’ve picked up my social skills from the people around me, books I’ve read, movies I watched, music I listen to, etc. This has shaped the way I process people. It is how I prejudge people and quite frankly, decide if I will have a relationship with them.
I think it’s time we challenge the language we’ve learned and open up our scope. One of the reasons this society remains divided is because of the old, troglodytic ways of thinking that continues to get passed down and how we persist in ignoring new ways to embrace each other. We shut down at the sight of anything that doesn’t look or sound like us further disenfranchising people from the ability to be treated as humans.
Motherhood teaches me a new language that I didn’t have access to as a single woman, or teenager, or adolescent or child. It forces me to consider what I do know and break away from the problematic ways I have adopted and perpetuated all these years.
When I finally head downstairs to speak to Kynedi, I ask her what she was trying to accomplish. I ask her if the toys she has aren’t enough entertainment. I speak to her about the possible ramifications of her actions and how she could’ve been seriously hurt. I’m not certain if I got through. But I do know, this language I am speaking is foreign to me.
This is only possible through being reflective and introspective. Because I am highly critical of myself, it allows me a space to question how I show up in this world, if the impact I’m making builds or destroys. This level of awareness also requires an honesty many of us are not ready to face. When I admitted that I wasn’t being the kind of mom where my daughter could come talk to just to shoot the shit because of my scary demeanor, it challenged the language I have grown accustomed to and required me to learn a new one. Yes I’m still that no nonsense mom, but every once in a while, it’s ok to pull out a different vernacular, one that isn’t so aggressive or cold.
Do I mess up at times? Absolutely. My aggressive language is my primary. It’s my default. This means doing the work of asking myself who the audience is. When I consider my audience, I can then change my language. Learning new language breaks down barriers. It opens up a world of possibility. It encourages peace and unity.
I think it’s important to note that while learning another language, it’s ok to create a new one where both parties feel heard. This creates a new dialect and allows a safe space for all parties involved to understand each other.