A phrase we repeat often in our family is “feel safe and loved.”
I remind Lincoln and Adelaide, before I drop them off at the gym daycare, that their job is to help each other “feel save and loved.”
Ben and I pray at night for guidance in helping our kids “feel safe and loved.”
Everything I read about infant + child brain development seems to hinge of children feeling safe and loved.
If I could boil my role as a mother down to one thing, it would be to work to have my children feel “safe and loved.”
My kids don’t always have to be happy. They don’t always have to sleep for 12 hours. They don’t always have to have two vegetables with each meal.
But they do always need to know they are safe and that they are loved.
Recently this has looked like me explaining my decisions to Lincoln in terms of what my job is. Just yesterday I had to confiscate a beloved flashlight because he kept shining it in his eyes. As I held a sobbing toddler in my arms instead of blurting out the tempting “I told you I would take it away if you did that again!” I asked him, “Lincoln, what is my job as your mom?”
“My job is to help you be safe. Shining that light in your eyes is not safe for your eyes. Because you kept shining it in your eyes, my job was to take it away to keep you safe. Would you like to try again with it after dinner?”
I love this new approach because each time he’s upset with something that I did, I can frame the decision in a way that puts me on his side, in his corner. It is also empowering to have a script to use in situations where emotions are running high. Like in the parking lot when Lincoln ran behind the car and I couldn’t see him for a second.
“Lincoln, I was so scared for a second. My job is to help you be safe and I cannot do that in a parking lot when you’re running behind the car. You’ll need to go right into your seat when we get to the car if you aren’t holding my hand.”
Sometimes it also means feeling extra awful about a harsh response or an unkind tone.
Did you know that babies brains SLOW their growth and development if a baby doesn’t feel safe (demonstrated by having prolonged stress). The only baby book I ended up reading before Lincoln arrived was Brain Rules for Baby and Medina details the few things a parent can do in that early period for brain development. Listening to Mozart doesn’t make them a genius. Teaching them to read at age two isn’t going to get them into an ivy league school. But making sure they feel stable and secure in their environment IS the best way you can support brain development (along with talking to your child ALL THE TIME).
As my kids get older feeling safe and loved will continue to look different. I imagine having to set different boundaries around family time, technology, and friends. I’m not certain they’ll always be able to tell the walls of consistency and safety are for their benefit. I’m not sure they’ll always like me for it.
But as long as they feel loved and safe. Safe and loved.