Writing Books for my Children
Ever since embarking on the pathway of motherhood, I am constantly thinking to myself "who am I raising my kids to be and how do I get there." Reading parenting books and keeping up with the latest parenting ideas and philosophies has helped me in many ways to solidify my "views" and "parenting style" but for me, that didn't feel like enough. How was I practically instilling lessons of life, self-love, healthy self-esteem, and of course how much I loved them, into my child's brain? I am a visual person and pictures and words always stand out more than what someone says. Young children are very visual and even when they can't read yet, they love to look at picture books, movies, graphics, anything with color and image. I knew I wanted to do something to connect with my kids in this visual way, something that just talking to them about it would fall short. So I decided to write them personalized books that included gorgeous photos of them (my husband is an amazing photographer so that was a big bonus!) and most of all, gave over a message to them that I wanted them to hold dear.
I started off writing a book for my son. He loves the concept of Superheroes (just like many other kids his age) and I filled the pages with examples of how when he uses self-control, acts responsible, is considerate of others, and is respectful - those are his superpowers and they make him a strong person. I wrote to him about how those superpowers are always there inside of him and he has the choice in every situation to use his powers and know his strength. We dressed him up in a superhero costume and did a photoshoot, taking pictures of him doing different things around the house that related to his superpowers - sharing with his siblings, cleaning up after himself, and of course multiple images of him jumping mid-air with his cape flying out behind him. My son was so thrilled with his new book. We read it nightly for a few weeks and every time we had visitors he proudly showed it off. He especially enjoyed explaining what each picture was and what exactly he was doing in it. What struck me the most besides his excitement was his new behavior and attitude. Whereas before he was acting out for attention and being rough with his baby brother at any given opportunity, now he was a lot more calm and confident. He didn't seem to need as much constant negative attention and he would constantly verbalize when he was using his "superpowers". Mission accomplished!
Self-Love and Acceptance
My daughter who is six needed a different style of a book. I had so many thoughts racing through my mind and different ideas for a book that would capture the essence of what I wanted to tell her from my heart. I thought about all the things I know now as my 30-year-old and what I wish I knew as a six-year-old. Inspired by an article I had read on the topic of raising strong and confident girls, I compiled my thoughts to my daughter and wrote her a poem.
You don’t have to if it makes you feel icky
You don’t have to if it makes you want to cry
You don’t have to if you feel unsafe
You don’t have to if you don’t want to
It’s ok for you to say no
It’s ok for you not to smile
It’s ok for you to walk away
It’s ok for you to do what feels good
No, you don’t have to speak to a stranger
No, you don’t have to shake his hand
No, you don’t have to hug your Aunt Sally
It’s fine to say “I’d rather not”
You are in charge of your body
You are in charge of your space
Nobody can cross over your boundaries
Those are your fences to guard your sacred place
It’s ok if some people don’t like you
It’s ok if they get mad when you don’t do what they want
Just make sure that you like yourself
Make sure you do what really feels good for you
Because when you love yourself
And respect yourself
You can love others
And respect them the same way
Each page was a different stanza of the poem and combined with my husband's beautiful photography it came out exactly how I had envisioned. The hug my daughter gave me after reading it to her for the first time told me this was everything to her. The validation, the acceptance, and the love and respect I had for her that I wanted her to KNOW I had for her - came through on the pages. She now had a tangible expression of my love for her and something I hope she will read over and over again to remind her of her worthiness and value. Perhaps even pass on to her daughter one day.
The next book I hope to write for my now 18-month-old is still up in the air and I have many ideas floating around my head of what to write that's tailored specifically to him. While I still have time before he will be able to understand the book I will write to him, it's something that is constantly on my mind. I also hope and plan to write more books for each of my children as they grow and develop into the amazing human beings that they are, being led by G-d for the exact right messages and words to capture my deepest thoughts and feeling I want them to know and words of encouragement and validation that will guide them on their life's journey.