The other day my daughter Cat uttered the S-word for the first time. Now this is not the S word many of you are thinking of, but for me, at least, this one carries much more weight behind it. Cat called her sister Aly... you're waiting for it aren't you...stupid. Granted she does not know what this word means, and neither does her 19 month old sister. But the fact that she said to her sister "stupid Aly" when she was doing something she didn't like leads me to believe she knows it is not a nice word. We had a talk with her and explained what the word meant and she was really sad. She went over to Aly, gave her a big hug and said "I love you so much". Now I like that phrase much more.
I think the reason why this bothers me so much is that if someone is called stupid, or treated like they are stupid, after awhile they start to believe it. This happened to my brother. I really believed my brother was stupid, but not that he was stupid intellectually but just stupid in the way he acted like a typical annoying little brother. In this day and age he probably would have been diagnosed with ADHD, but that was not the case back in the early 80s when he was starting school. He had a really rough time and instead of trying to figure out what the true cause of his problems were his teachers told my parents things like "he just doesn't seem interested" or "he doesn't pay attention" or "he is just a distraction from class for the other students". Inside he felt like something was really wrong with him but on the outside he never talked about it. He stopped going to school when he was a junior in high school and self medicated himself with alcohol and drugs. Over the years my parents tried everything to get him to talk, to help him, to get him in counseling, anything they could do. It was so heartbreaking to see the kid grow up to be a man that just didn't seem to care.
Things are good now and we have learned a lot from his experience. I know signs to look for in my own kids and their Uncle J will be there to give some first hand accounts of what can happen if you start believing what others say about you and stop believing in yourself. I was the complete opposite of my brother, I always had a job, did well in school, didn't party all that much. In my mind I just figured my brother was going through a phase and that he would grow out of it, well that isn't always the case. I love my brother, he is incredibly smart, he now loves to write and reads all the time, and he loves my kids. He spoils them rotten at Christmas and birthdays (but J please no more Pony spa islands) and always wants to talk to them on the phone. He is amazed by how much they grow, and I think he is also amazed that they love him so much.
So what finally turned my brother around? I don't know if it is coincidence but it occurred around the first time he saw Cat as a baby back in 2002. At that point she was a very high needs baby, had to be attached to me at all times. But he wanted to hold her even if she cried. Well, he did and she didn't cry, she just stared at him as if she was trying to memorize his face. Everyone else, even my mom, couldn't get her to settle down, but my brother had the magic touch and ever since then Cat and Aly have both loved their Uncle J, and Uncle J has loved them.