As a mom, I’m increasingly aware of the power of my words. With a single breath, I can empower, encourage and inspire. And yet, with that same breath I can destroy, belittle, and demoralize. With my toddler, I already see the significance of my words when I speak to him. Sometimes, the things I say have an instant impact – whether in comfort, discipline, or question. Other times, I see that though they mean absolutely nothing now, there are some words that no child should carry with them. Lately, the two words that I’ve found myself voicing to my son more than I’d ever like to, are these: BE CAREFUL.
As he runs around our home giggling and falling over his chubby feet,
As he climbs over our furniture and opens up all our cabinet doors,
When he stares in awe standing close to the fire burning in the pit outside,
The examples go on and on. It’s almost instinctive isn’t it? We shroud statements like these in justifications of concern and wisdom, as our supposed parenting duty. But do we ever stop to think about what these words really imply? Practically, to be careful means to avoid risk and to steer clear of potential danger, mishap, or harm.
To be careful is to be cautious, deliberate, and safe.
And while I, like most parents, want my child to be safe, I certainly do not want my child to live safe.
Rather, I want my son to stand courageously, to take risks, and to live boldly. I want him to stand apart from the crowd and not with it. I want him to feel encouraged to make decisions that aren’t relevant, well-liked, or viral. I want him to roll up his sleeves, get dirty, and make change in this world- not become a product of living careful—stagnation, and even worse, apathy.
We’re parenting in a society that is watching our every move, where cat-fights break out over how you face your five-point harness car seat and whether you vaccinate your child—and while this isn’t about that, it’s an example of where our intentions can go wrong. While the act of being careful isn’t all that bad, the implication of it is. We’re creating a world of invisible monsters that live around every corner, and worse; we’re raising children that are living careful and living from a place of nurtured fear.
I look back at our history and what I don’t see are stories of people being careful. Instead, what I do see is the long-lasting impact of major influencers such as Martin Luther King, Harriet Tubman, Susan B. Anthony, Galileo, Jesus Christ, Nelson Mandela and more.
They did what others could not do because they lived from a place of bravery—not fear, not caution.
Maybe my son won’t create rapid change across a country, but he will elsewhere. Just like your child. The words I say to him now, he’ll carry. Just like your words. Rather than the words of carefulness planting themselves firmly in their hearts, wouldn’t you much rather them hear something else instead?
As they see a peer being taunted mercilessly by a bully,
When they have to do what is right, and not what is easy,
And when they have to stand alone,
These are the words our children should be hearing. These are the words that inspire leaders, empower creators, and relinquish inventors. These are the words that create explorers, adventurers, and ambassadors. These are the words that should define not just a hazy dream of long lost childhood but become the foundation for our adult world. And so, this is why I’m no longer telling my son to be careful, and instead, asking him to be brave.