This past weekend, in the wake of too-tempting Easter chocolates, the kids were struggling to get along and needed some quiet time.
We sent them upstairs to do whatever they wanted, as long as it wasn't with each other. Kachi cuddled up on our bed with his blankies and a story, Sam puttered with Lego in his room, and Vava stretched out on the bottom bunk with her paper and pencils.
She wasn't feeling well, so I lay down beside her and rubbed her back. After a few quiet moments, she broke my heart with this little bit of news:
"Some girls in my class called me a loser."
I felt a rush of mama-bear anger and defensiveness, tempered with pity for the kids who had heard that term at such a young age. Most of all, I felt a stab of fearful sorrow that she would believe them, that such an ugly label might have kerneled into her heart to grow into something crooked later.
And I couldn't help thinking of all the insults that I've just let slide right into my heart and make themselves at home. Even started using them on myself.
Ugly. Embarrassing. Stupid. Fat.
They've become part of me like dandelion roots.
I didn't want to overreact or give her the idea that she should hate them or use mean words in response, so after sputtering through a few false starts, I just asked her what she had done when they said that.
She told me that she had corrected them with, "No, actually; I'm an author-illustrator."
Isn't that the best response ever?
She didn't even give their insult air time. Didn't twist her own heart to insult them back. Just shielded that attack with her own definition of herself instead.
So now I've got a new strategy in my pocket. Next time I hear an echo of some ugly label in my heart, I'm going to slay it with a line from my favourite four-year-old author-illustrator: No, actually.