In The Help, the character Aibileen cares for Mae Mobley with a generosity and compassion that is astonishing given the way she is treated by Mae’s mother and white society at large. As part of their regular routine, Aibileen brings Mae Mobley into her lap and says to her, “You is kind, you is smart, you is important.” She speaks these identities to the little girl, imprinting them deep inside her spirit before Mae knows better than to question them.
I think sometimes we worry that in affirming our children, we are somehow puffing them up to think too much of themselves, or somehow putting down someone else. Eden is at the age where she is discovering the dreaded suffix “-est,” wanting to be the fastest and wondering who is the prettiest. If I tell her how wonderful she is, won’t she continue in this obsession and put herself at the top of every list?
I don’t think so. Granted, this parenting thing is one big experiment and I’m no expert. But, it makes sense to me that what is poured into a child comes out later in life, for good and for bad. Someone smart (don’t remember where I read it and can’t find it) said that the “you” messages of childhood become the “I” messages of adulthood. If I tell my child through words and actions that she is not good enough, she will feel not good enough as an adult. If I tell my child through my words and actions that she is good, brave, kind, and beautiful, she will feel those things and hopefully act them out as an adult.
So, for Valentine’s Day I wanted to make something that would remind me to affirm Eden and remind her who she is and what I believe about her. I loved this idea I saw on pinterest, but I wanted to tweak the message. It may just be semantics, but I didn’t want a “because” after the phrase “I love you.” A period seemed more fitting—more unconditional and unending.
I started with a thrifted picture frame and painted it red because that’s Eden’s favorite color. I used scrapbook paper with rainbows (also a favorite) for the background and stencils and a red sharpie for the lettering.
Then I cut strips out of an old tie-dye shirt and folded and hot glued it into a flower shape. Hot gluing a button into the center made it look more finished, and then I glued them onto the frame. (I have a love/hate relationship with hot glue guns. I love them because they make anything stick to anything. I hate them because I burn myself every. single. time. I use it.)
Now I can write with a dry erase marker all the qualities I see in Eden, all the things I want her to know she is and all the things she will give to others.