Tell the Story of Your Day
Birth2Work Staff, mother
Talk About My Day, Mommy
With the shades drawn and the warm glow of the salt lamp dimly lighting our room, my son and I tell stories to each other at night before he goes to sleep. We lie next to each other, cheek to cheek and tell the story of our day while settling him in for the night. “Talk about my day, Mommy,” he says. I’ll start in with that morning’s waking routine, followed by breakfast and preparations for school. He’ll occasionally stop me and say something like, “No tell me about when I saw the trains,” or “Tell me about Grandpa’s house.”
Sometimes I ask him to start the story, and instead of telling me about that day’s adventures, he recounts a trip that we took and all the steps we went through before arriving at the airport. “First we get in the car, then we get breakfast at Starbucks, then we go to the polka dot shuttle bus. …” Eventually we get back to the present day. I don’t mind his tangential stories because they reveal so much more about what he’s interested in than any answer to a question I might think to ask during the day. His attention to detail is staggering.
I love this part of our evening routine. It matters to me so much because it’s the time each day I’ve carved out to practice mindfulness, to celebrate what we’ve done right, and to forgive myself for that day’s failures. My mommy guilt is real. But I now know how to accept it and how to let it go.
Failure is Valuable
Part of what the Birth2Work course helps parents understand is the value of failure, both in our own lives and that of our children. Reducing the fear of failure allows our children to interact with the world as confident and capable people. Sharing with them that we too struggle and fail at various points in our own lives reveals that failure is a universal experience. A leader embraces the setbacks as points from which to grow, not as something shameful to hide.
As a parent, my failures take many forms. What I think amounts to failure for me as a mother is very different than what my husband expects of himself as a father. Our definitions of failure for ourselves are different now than what they were when our son was a newborn. Your definition of failure is your own, depending on your background and personal expectations.
The unifying idea is that rarely do all things go our way all day long. Mistakes are made and sometimes they can be rectified. Sometimes they have to linger for a while. But never do they have to fester. And that is what telling my son the story of our day is all about.
Tell the Story of Your Day
As the last part of your bedtime routine, start spending a few minutes retelling the events of your day. Include all the things that made you smile and all the rough patches that could use some reframing. The age of your child doesn’t matter. A nursing infant still benefits from hearing your voice. By the time your infant is a toddler this storytime will be an ingrained habit.
You are building a bond with your child that models thoughtful reflection and mindfulness. As a parent, you are expressing leadership through acknowledging the successes of yourself and those around you as well as granting everyone, including yourself, the permission to fail.
The Benefits of Reflection and Reinforcement
Being a parent is hard. Being a toddler is also really hard. There are big emotions to contend with. There are toys stolen and food spilled and playdates cut short. Developing a sense of control and perspective in your life takes practice. So we’re starting early.
Besides reflecting on what we can do better next time, there are enormous benefits of routinely recounting our experiences together. By simply retelling the story of our day:
- We go over our routines so he becomes more acclimated to his days and our mutual expectations of each other.
- We revisit new words we learned to expand his vocabulary and build associations with other experiences. (Think about the places you visited, the foods you tried, etc.)
- We emphasize the things he did really well and how happy it made both of us to work together or learn a new skill or meet someone friendly and helpful.
- We acknowledge and review his tantrums (or mine, or that of another friend) and how he felt during that time and that Mommy knows how it feels to be frustrated and sad too. I offer ways we can handle the situation differently next time and he listens even if all the words don’t make sense yet.
- I confess to things that I struggled with and how tomorrow I will try again to do better.
- I take the time I might otherwise use to do yet more computer work, to reflect on my experience as a mother. In so doing I am comforted by the snuggles of an all-loving, all-forgiving child and feel deeply that I am enough for him. I find it difficult to reach that same level of resolution on my own or even talking to another adult.
- We strengthen our attachment to each other through shared experiences and a warm blanket.
Lots of elder couples imparted their wisdom to my husband and myself when we got married, “Never go to bed angry with each other.” I expanded upon that advice and applied it to my relationship with my child for all the exceptional moments, all the times when I was upset or disappointed, and all the beautiful, thrilling, and exhausting days in between.
Each night, by reframing our experiences as lessons learned, I can turn most any tough day into an exciting story with a happy ending. I model the behavior I want to see my son have for himself including positive reinforcement for goals achieved and a healthy perspective on the value of failure. This is one way I lead my family to success.
Sweet dreams everyone.
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