A couple of weeks ago, I read something on social media that jarred me to insomnia. It was about a toddler that was abused and killed. Even writing those words makes me tear up because it made me think about my own beautiful baby girl. Honestly, it also triggered a deep rooted anxiety I have of protecting her at all costs, especially due to my own history of abuse.
This anxiety almost became overbearing because the worst case scenarios would not stop multiplying in my mind. After some tears and some prayers, I felt some reassurance. But I also felt peace in something else –
My baby is a truth teller. If she’s not feeling someone’s vibe, she lets them know. There is someone at her daycare that she doesn’t care for and she says “no like ______________”. Due to this, I have limited her interaction with this person. When she came to my classroom, one of my students tried to kiss her on the cheek and she screamed “no kiss, no, no no” and wagged her little finger. Now this does not mean that every time she makes a face or pulls away, she is picking up on a negative vibe. There are plenty of mommy- certified friends she does this to. She just may not feel like being bothered. Yet, I still honor her feelings because I don’t want her to feel the pressure of “performing”
to make someone feel comfortable.
She is the total opposite of me. My truth telling is often diluted by my people pleasing habits. So much so, that when she snatches her hand from someone or wags that little finger in someone’s direction (her equivalent to cussing you out), I often over-explain that she is tired or has to warm up. People don’t realize that just because a toddler is cute does not mean they are friendly, so I often find myself trying to sweep their hurt feelings up off the floor.
But the truth is, I honor my baby’s instincts. I pay attention to who she likes and does not like. In fact when she introduces herself to someone I feel like this person is either a saint or Spiderman in plainclothes (her current favorite). I don’t ever want to undermine her instincts because I am projecting my own discomfort on her. In fact, I want her to prioritize listening to what her own discomfort is telling her (except during bedtime fights) because I feel like that is a gateway for trusting her instincts. And of course there is a fragile balance between respect and toddler assertion. Her Daddy and I are navigating that with discernment, but I don’t ever want my actions to encourage her to doubt her own voice. Especially since it took me so long to trust my own.
I need her to tell me the truth so I can protect her. I need her to advocate for herself when her father and I cannot. I want my daughter to be her truthful, discerning and assured self ,even when it means shattering respectability politics from time to time. People will get over it. But the opportunity to affirm my daughter’s virtue of trusting and asserting her own voice is not something I’m willing to sacrifice.