Things have been rather quiet here at Daily Graces. We are in the middle of a deployment and have had some family visiting. It is always so nice to have the kids be able to spend quality time with grandmas. And I’m not gonna lie, it’s nice to be able to talk with Ben and not have to share every conversation we have with our delightful, talkative children. Especially Clare, who only knows how to say “Hi” “Bye” “Uh-ha” and “NO!” Conversation is rather limited when those are all you’ve got.
Even though Clare’s language abilities are pretty limited, she is really trying to learn how to say new words. When you ask her to say something, she tries. It usually amounts to grunts and odd combinations of vowels, but she tries. 1 grunt means please – usually sounds like peas when she doesn’t have a pacifier in her mouth. 2 noises of any variety means thank you. We’re working on it =)
All the language focus has brought me to consider the vocabulary I choose to use. I have always believed very strongly in the power of words and how they can not only shape, but actually change reality.
We have lamp next to our desktop computer. Lately, John has been stacking dinosaurs on it’s stand. While this is fine normally during the day, it gets complicated when we are trying to skype with Ben and John and Rosie are nearly knocking one another over, or Clare, or the lamp, or the computer, (get the picture yet?) while trying to decide which dino should go where.
Finally, the other day I had had enough and said “John, I want you to stop stacking the dinosaurs on my lamp.” Notice the language – my lamp.
Now, technically, this statement is inaccurate. Really, the only person who could say that most things in our house are “theirs” is my husband, since his job is our family’s primary source of income. From the perspective of our kids, it is probably fair to say that the lamp belongs to Mom and Dad as the adults and heads of the home. My statement certainly reinforced that perspective.
After the fact, I realized the divide I was creating between the kids and the adults in our house with my language. How many times have I, out of frustration and lack of patience, said “Please get off my couch, it’s not for jumping on!” or similar exclamation. I think that my tendency to use a singular possessive descriptor (my) comes from a desire to teach respect for others’ belongings and space. And it’s true, the kids do need to learn to respect others’ things. However, I believe (now) that this particular lesson could happen elsewhere, and my possessive language choices about the items in our home will do more harm than good down the line.
If I want John, Rosie and Clare to “buy in” as it were, to the ownership of our home, my language must reflect this reality. Ben and I both feel strongly that we want our children to take pride in our home, to share the responsibilities of maintaining a home, and help with age appropriate tasks that are necessary to keep our home functioning smoothly and peacefully. We don’t want to offer allowances based on chores, because we all use our home. We all walk on the floors, wear the clothes and eat off the plates. Therefore, we all need to take responsibility for the things we have and to learn to be good caretakers and stewards of our belongings.
For this model to work, my possessive, truly divisive language will not create this reality. Quite the opposite actually.
It’s amazing the power of our words. In this example, simply changing “my” to “our” fundamentally changes how our whole family views our home and our belongings. The power of words stems all the way back to creation. God created the world from nothing (Genesis 1). God’s spoken word created the heavens and the earth, the plants and streams, animals and birds, Adam and Eve. Since we are made in the image and likeness of God, our words have similar, though much less impressive, ability. How we choose to describe people, animals and situations has effects on that person, animal or situation. This is especially true when it comes to helping shape our children and their perception of themselves. Consider this CatholicMom.com post about one mom’s experience when she overheard another parent refer to their child as a “little monster.”
In John’s Gospel, he describes Jesus as the Word made flesh (John 1). This is so important for our Catholic faith. Jesus, being God, is the creative Word. This means that Jesus’ words have the power to change reality, just as God’s did at the beginning of creation. We believe that when Jesus spoke the words of consecration over the bread and wine at the Last Supper, He actually changed the reality. The bread and wine truly became and continue to become His Body and Blood.
One final example, and this is something that has been going around Facebook recently that I think bears mentioning. If we all can agree that our words have the power to change reality, then we need to take a closer look at our vocabulary. The Catholic Church teaches that life begins at conception. This means that: