A Your Mother’s Guidance post by Rebecca Masinter
You are familiar with the infamous story of the twelve spies who were sent to scout out the land in preparation for the children of Israel’s planned immediate entry into their land. Catastrophically, ten of the spies came back with negative feedback about the land of Israel, and ultimately our entry to the land was delayed for forty years until that generation was gone.
Today I’d like to look at one line the spies said in their report while describing the overwhelming size and strength of the inhabitants of Canaan. “Van’hi v’eineinu kachagavim v’chein hayinu b’eineihem.” “And we were in our own eyes like grasshoppers, and so we were also in their eyes.” (Numbers 13:33)
Listen carefully: First they say we saw ourselves tiny and insignificant like grasshoppers and only afterwards do they say that others perceived them that way as well.
The message is obvious. We aren’t defined or limited by how others perceive us; it’s the other way around. We see ourselves one way, positively or negatively, and then broadcast that viewpoint to everyone around us. Ultimately others end up seeing us the same way we do.
This in itself is a profound point and one worth a few minutes of our thought today. We each have tremendous power within ourselves, and our limiting factor is often not what others think, but it’s primarily that we don’t believe enough in ourselves and our potential and we then broadcast that to those around us.
However, this isn’t really what I wanted to focus on because Your Mother’s Guidance keeps the focus on mothering. I believe this next point is urgent. While it is true that we, adults, broadcast our self-image from the inside out and need to take responsibility to adjust our self-perceptions accordingly, our children’s self image is very much shaped by how they perceive we see them.
When a child thinks we see them one way, good or bad, they then begin to perceive themselves the same way. This is the opposite of the spies. Sometimes, of course, parents and teachers send explicit messages to children about who we think they are and what we think they are good at or not. Sometimes our messages are so subtle that we don’t even know we’re broadcasting them, but our kids are listening and absorbing an image of themselves that stems from us.
Those of us in the Northern Hemisphere are embarking on the beginning of summer vacation. Many hours are ahead where we will be the central adult figure in our children’s lives and the lens through which they see themselves reflected and defined. Let’s take some time to think through what messages we may be transmitting to our children about themselves.
Perhaps we recognize their good qualities, positive intentions, and purity, and convey that regularly. And maybe we sometimes, very subtly or not so subtly, we give them negative messages or view them in ways that limit them or define them as less than they can be. Our kids self-perceptions are heavily influenced by us. We owe it to them to take time to think through each one, maybe taking a few minutes to write down what are the positive, infinite attributes we see in each child, to remind ourselves of what we want to convey. Every attribute has its positive side; every incident has its positive angle. It’s up to us to see it in our kids and share with them the beauty and positivity that we see. May God bless each of us with success in this giant endeavor.