One of my favorite compliments that I have gotten from a few longtime readers is that they admire how I sit back and let my girls be themselves and do things for themselves, whether it’s letting them sing (what seems like) a five-hour long song to completion, watching them draw without telling them to stay in the lines or testing their physical boundaries by letting them climb or balance on something when most parents would probably yell, “Get down!”
This is something I learned from my mother. Just like her, I try not to discourage. I like to see what my kids can do. I remember when Mazzy and Harlow were babies, trying to pull themselves up to standing for the first time and people kept rushing to help them. I would always put my hand up to wave them away.
Wait to see if she can do it on her own, I would say.
I love to see how things unfold without my input. I like to listen to them when they let their imaginations run wild because that’s my way of discovering who they are. A few weeks ago, Mazzy and Harlow wanted to film a tour of our house. I thought I was just going to trail them from room to room with a camera, as they talked about all their stuff. But instead, Mazzy had an idea to pretend there were secret passageways connecting each room and I followed her lead. In the end, I put together a video that was true to Mazzy’s vision, not mine. And I gave her a director credit at the front. I can’t tell you what a major confidence boost it was for her to see her name credited on the screen like that. It was such a simple thing to do, but for her, even just having her mom acknowledge her contribution, was pretty major. It was pretty eye-opening for me to note that special acknowledgement isn’t just important when it comes from a coach or a teacher, it’s a big deal from a parent too.
Mazzy loves to film videos, but recently, she’s noticed that Harlow loves the spotlight and is a bigger personality on camera. So I explained to Mazzy that movies are not just made by the people acting on camera. They are made by tons of behind-the-scenes people like writers, set designers, directors, costume designers, cinematographers, etc. This got Mazzy really excited. As I’m writing this post, Mazzy is next to me writing a “script” for Harlow. It’s funny one-liners about toys.
Instilling confidence and encouraging imagination isn’t just about making videos, obviously. It can apply to almost anything.
Harlow loves dancing, but more than dancing, she loves making up choreography for other people to follow along. Mike and I will do this pretty often and I think it solidifies for her that we love watching her dance enough to participate. One night this summer, we were at a friend’s house. Music was playing and Harlow started doing some of her signature moves. As usual, she instructed me to copy her steps. When I obliged, Mike followed suit. Then, one by one, the other kids and their parents got into the action too. By the end of the song, Harlow was at the front of the room, leading 1o people, six of them adults. I have to thank each and every one of those people for giving Harlow a huge confidence boost that night.
The other thing Mazzy and Harlow love to do is bake. In fact, if you ask Harlow, despite all the singing and dancing, she will always say that she wants to be a baker when she grows up. For my part, if the girls want to bake, I let them bake. If they spill or mess up, I let them spill or mess up. We can always clean later and the confidence they build by saying they made a creation all on their own is well worth the extra clean-up time.
The other day, we baked peanut butter cookies from scratch, which is something I used to make all the time as a little girl with my mom. I like the recipe because it’s easy and there is room for error. I remember my favorite part was making the cross-hatched fork prints on each individual cookie before we put them in the oven. The girls were excited to do the fork prints too, but after a few traditional prints, they wanted to get a little more creative.
Harlow pressed her fork on the edges of the cookie and called it a lion because the prints resembled a mane. Mazzy made stripes and polka dots on her cookies. I let them go for it. There is no such thing as the right way to decorate a peanut butter cookie.
Ultimately, my goal is for my girls to know that their ideas and creations are loved and valued. Whether it be a drawing, a dance move, a song they made up or a funny looking batch of peanut butter cookies.
Jif® is looking for kids with big dreams for their “Imagine If with Jif®” contest. If you submit a video highlighting your kids’ entrepreneurial idea, it could be selected for up to $30,000 in funding. Check out jif.com/imagine-if to find out how to enter and to read about other ways Jif® is nourishing and rewarding inspiring endeavors taken on by everyday kids.
This post was sponsored by Jif® Peanut butter, but all opinions are my own.