Unknowingly Shaming

by Jessica Winter 

I recently had a local photographer take pictures for my family.  My two sons are so photogenic.  They are always smiling, so it is pretty easy to snap photos of them.  My daughter, on the other hand, is not a smiler.  She even went through a phase last year where she would actually hiss at you like a cat when you asked her a question that she did not want to answer.  She is an independent, spit-fire of a little girl, and she refuses to smile on command.  So we had some problems trying to get her to even look happy during our family pictures.  

I was sitting outside with her waiting for the photographer to show up, and I asked her to show me how she was going to smile for our pictures.  She immediately covered up her face and looked away from me.  I couldn’t figure out why she was hiding her face, and I couldn’t even get her to look at me.  After a few minutes of communicating back and forth, she finally looked at me and said, “You told me that I am not good at smiling”.  

Now let me give you some backstory here.  I have a large family, and we spend a lot of time together.  We always tease my father because in every family picture that we have taken, he is hardly ever smiling.  His eyes are either closed or he blinks during the shot and his mouth is normally half open like he is talking during the picture.  He has never been good at taking pictures.  So during our last family photo session, my family was teasing my daughter saying that she takes pictures like her Grandpa.  Never in a million years did I expect my daughter to associate me telling her that she takes pictures like her Grandpa as me saying that she wasn’t good at smiling, but she did and I now feel terrible.  I spent the next few days telling her how pretty she was when she smiled and tried to build her up, but I honestly have no idea how to fix the mistake that I made.  

How many of us jokingly tease or make fun of a person without knowing the effect that it will have on them.  My goal going forward is to be more aware of the things that I do and the actions that I take around my kids, and I want to be a voice of positivity in their lives.  Parenting is hard, and I know that I will make many mistakes along the way.  I want to create a household of openness with my kids.  I want them to be able to come to me and tell me about the things that make them feel bad, even if the thing that is making them unhappy is me.  I want my kids to understand that we are all human, that we all make mistakes and that our home will be filled with forgiveness and grace.  

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