My friend Heidi posted this great thought on her Facebook wall: “It has come to my attention that my daily parting words to my kids *might* be odd. Who doesn’t need to hear ‘be kind and stay hydrated’ on a daily basis???”
Heidi’s Facebook friends, including myself, shared what they say to their kids every day when they part or what their parents told them when they were growing up.
“Remember who you are. You still feel strange?”
I said that if I were to raise my adult children all over again, my parting words would be “Be brave. Take risks.”
Heidi also shared a link to this excellent article about one of the richest self-made women in the world, SPANX founder Sara Blakely, who learned an important lesson about failure from her dad that she now passes on to her four kids.
Blakely said that her dad used to invite her and her brother to share their failures at the dinner table. Instead of being disappointed or upset, he would celebrate their efforts. Blakely said it’s a conversation she’s already having with her seven-year-old: “I talk to him all about, ‘What have you tried to fail at this week?’”
Blakely takes a similar approach to failure as one of my heroes, Brené Brown.
In TIME’s interview with Brené Brown, Brown, who has spent nearly her whole career studying shame and courage, shared this advice: “Don’t try to fix it. If my child, you know, tries out for a team or really wants to get into a certain college or gets shunned at lunch, am I willing to…just be with her or him in the struggle? Am I willing to look over and say, ‘God, I know how crappy this feels right now?’”
I don’t know what Brown’s parting words to her children are, but I can guess that she says something like, “Be vulnerable. Be curious. Have courage.”
I’m not sure about you, but my mom would never encourage me to fail and teach me how to learn from my shortcomings. “Be a good girl” were the parting words she used when I left the house for school.
No wonder I tried to be Miss Perfect, which led me to cheat on a national competition and win a prize. I did anything I could to feel more loved by my mom, and the only way I knew was not to fail—to work hard and get top grades and lots of compliments about what a good girl I was!
In our culture of never being good enough, we have to be very careful not to teach our children to be good boys and girls but instead to teach them to be brave and vulnerable, to love themselves and believe they are worthy.
Instead of using “I love you” as your parting words, how about saying “love yourself”?
Instead of using the autopilot phrase “have a nice day,” what if we learned from Harriet Lauler (played by Shirley MacLaine) in the movie The Last Word? Harriet says, “Please don’t have a nice day. Have a day that matters.”
Maybe if we tell one another to “have a day that matters,” we’ll each of us feel more empowered to create the day we want.
My purpose here is to inspire you to think about the parting words you heard growing up and the parting words you want to use with your own children (and others in general) and realize that words have power.
The last and most important point I want to make is that who we are and how we show up in the world is more important than what we say.
Telling our daughters to “be brave” when we live in fear and do nothing to change it won’t work. Saying “be vulnerable” but not sharing our emotions won’t lead anywhere.
Be intentional with your parting words, and live as the woman you want your daughter to become.
If you need inspiration for wisdom to share with your child, I hope you will permit the Beacons of Change Manifesto to serve you:
The Beacons of Change Manifesto
We are a sisterhood.
We know that healing together outshines healing alone.
We are committed to
turning challenges into opportunities,
bringing purpose to pain,
& living outside of our comfort zone.
Instead of letting the winds of change pull us off course,
we create our own turning points & direct our own destinies.
doing and being,
giving and receiving,
caring for others and for ourselves.
We are devoted to radical self-care and to joy.
We resist being invisible.
We resist hiding in the back.
We resist staying small.
our failures, & our humanness.
And when we fall, we always choose to rise!
We rise to shine our light and to live as a guide for others.
We are the Beacons of Change.