In The Help by Kathryn Stockett, a wise and loving black maid devotes herself to the seventeenth white child she is raising. Mae Mobley is her Baby Girl! Dismayed that the child's mother demeans her, Aibileen speaks in whispers to Mae Mobley's heart. Her whispers fill the child with good thoughts she can believe about herself, thoughts no one can steal away. When Aibileen is forced to walk out of the child's life, she tells it this way.
"Law, I feel like my heart's gone bleed to death. 'I got to go, baby, you my last little girl,' I say. It just ain't by my own choosing. 'Baby Girl,' I say, 'I need you to remember everything I told you ... about what you are.'
"I look deep into her rich brown eyes and ... I swear I see, down inside, the woman she gone grow up to be. She is tall and straight. She is proud. And she is remembering the words I put in her head. Remembering as a full-grown woman.
"And then she say it, just like I need her to. 'You is kind,' she say to herself, 'you is smart. You is important.'
"Oh Law, I feel like she done just given me a gift. I cry and say, 'Thank you, Baby Girl.'"
The whispered messages, colored with an indelible crayon, will keep playing on the tape recorder of Mae Mobley's remembering.
In the same way, whatever messages you give your child – with your tone of voice, or body language, or words – record on her internal tape recorder. The erase button on a child's tape recorder is elusive and erratic. The messages of childhood keep playing the whole of a child's life, like unforgettable melodies that linger in our heads.
And your messages? Catch her doing good. Notice when she's kind. Praise her for being helpful. Empathize with her feelings. Draw attention to her very trying to get something right. Smother her with approval.
She believes you! Your messages become the messages in her head that guide her, like an immense magnetic pull, to become the person you tell her she is.
Oh, how I hope they leave the scene of Mae Mobley's remembering, "You is kind. You is important." in the movie adaptation. For all of us to remember.
A Colorful Thought: Color the memory tape of your child's early years with a brilliant, positive crayon that never fades.