You Are Phenomenal.


A few years ago, I returned to my elementary school and visited my art teacher, a woman I deeply admired then and still do, now.  I teased, “I know I was difficult.” She tilted her head and looked at me genuinely perplexed.  After a momentary pause, she responded, “Lauren, I never thought you were difficult.  I thought you were extraordinary.  Sweet, fun and smart.”  I returned the tilted-head, genuinely-perplexed-look because all I ever remembered hearing about my childhood was how “difficult” I was.  To be remembered for all positive attributes was truly astonishing and it forced me to rethink the way I had always described myself as a child: difficult,  prone to emotional outbursts and epic temper-tantrums.

It’s not as if these things weren’t true.  They were.  I was often-times angry as a child.  So angry that I would bite my arms to release the tension.  So angry, my mother would lock herself in her bedroom to avoid the miscellaneous items I would throw across the room.  It took me years of therapy, in my adult years, to recognize that my anger was a cry for attention.  As much as my mother and I argued, I wanted her.  I needed her.  My mother loved me but she traveled often and worked full-time and I wanted more.  So I responded with anger and when I finally left for boarding school at 15, I carried this sadness with me and firmly placed it as my go-to memory when asked of my childhood.

Extraordinary.  Sweet, fun and smart.  Oh yes, I do remember this Lauren, now.  I had simply remembered the negative over the positive and don’t we all tend to do this, so often?

These things we tell ourselves- they have power.  They are not merely a reflection of our past; they become a manifestation of our present identity.   In his book, Self Matters, Dr. Phil refers to this internal dialogue as “tapes” or the things we consistently and subconsciously tell ourselves resulting in a label that may not be wholly true, now or then.

There are two ways to combat these “tapes”.  The first is a commitment to self-realization, whether through counseling, prayer or working through a few self-help books to redefine your “authentic self” .  The second is to become aware of our tendency to label ourselves and others.  This is what I am currently working on.

The other day, when someone asked “How’s it going?”, which really meant, “How are you surviving a newborn, 2 & 3 year-old?” I explained in clear ear-shot of Harper, “The baby is fine.  It’s the older two that are driving me crazy.”  It’s certainly true, but did it need to be said in front of my two-year-old who may or may not have understood?  No, it didn’t.

I have a tendency to be highly critical of myself; I’m sure a lot of us do.  My awareness of this situation isn’t a symptom of self-mutilation, rather, I started to realize just how many things I have said about Harper in front of her, as if she wasn’t there.  Let’s be real:  She’s no piece-of-cake when it comes to parenting.  It’s easy to label a child who refuses to go to sleep or still wakes multiple times at night, exhausting.  This is indisputable; however, I CAN be more aware of talking about her in her presence, as well as labeling the behavior and not the child.  The fact that she would rather throw herself at her door than sleep is exhausting, but she herself is likely refusing sleep not to be exhausting but to get the point across that she, our middle child, needs and wants more attention.

Burning Off Energy

Our self-esteems are fragile, particularly a child’s.  It is my responsibility to ensure my children, more often than not, hear me describe them as the creative, loving, phenomenal children that they are.  And when appropriate, I can lament to my friends about their exhausting ways, when they are not around to hear it.

I do believe there’s a fine-line between appropriate praise and raising a narcissist and my intent is not to achieve the latter.  So when my children are out-of-line, I will still call them out; however, I will work on criticizing the behavior, not the child.  “Harper, owls stay up all night, not phenomenal little girls. ”  And when my children are 20 years old and ask, “What was I like as a child?” I will remind them that, although those early years were difficult at times, they were thoughtful, beautiful, and yes, phenomenal.

Camille Vaughan Photography



5 thoughts on “You Are Phenomenal.

  1. So beautiful and so true! I have read all three posts and I am so impressed. I have been blogging for 2 years and have only recently been comfortable sharing it. Your site is beautiful and functional as well. HOW? With 3 little ones? HOW? All I can say is, keep going. I will be following along. 💗


    • You are so kind, Liesl! Thank you so much! I wrote half of this during breakfast, the other half during nap, and edited it at 3 a.m. when I thought about a more appropriate example of Harper- don’t want to cause others to label her at the expense of humor, you know? I want to read yours!! Please share!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Lauren,
        You will be so glad you started this blog now. I am having to go back and remember. Not an easy task! Just grateful to have the time to reflect. Here is my latest post:

        P.S. You have inspired me to “pretty up” my blog a bit. It’s definitely a work in progress! Aren’t we all? ❤


  2. Lauren,
    You will be so glad you started this blog now. I am having to go back and remember. Not an easy task! Just grateful to have the time to reflect. Here is my latest post:

    P.S. You have inspired me to “pretty up” my blog a bit. It’s definitely a work in progress! Aren’t we all? ❤


  3. Reblogged this on New Leaf Parenting and commented:

    “But I thought I was bad.” My seven year-old Harper remarked, when I recently shared an adorable video of her two-year-old self.

    I looked right at her and said, “You are phenomenal. You always have been”

    And she burst into tears.

    I wrote this blog 5 years ago, but somewhere along the way, the message was lost.

    My beautiful, seven-year old has been carrying the shame of being a difficult toddler, explaining why these last couple of years she has been our best listener and the most helpful.

    She’s trying to right her “wrongs”.

    Cue my broken heart.

    I gently explained that we all experience times in our life that are more difficult than others but that doesn’t make us inherently “bad”. I’ve made it a point to share photo and video after video of her smiling and laughing, illustrating what a joyous child she has always been.

    “It’s time we re-write the story in your mind about the kind of kid you were.”

    She smiled.

    And we carry on.


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