It's You I Like


Two books have begun to stitch me up inside. The change feels subtle but real.

Two people dear to me, my sister Holly and my friend Ellen, sent me these two books in the mail a couple months ago, both for very different reasons. I have learned through Annie to accept whatever comes to teach me, from wherever it comes.

Then, as is almost always the case, God sent along a minder...Our minder turned on a standing lamp for us. A minder and some light. Voilà - heaven.
— Anne Lamott, Small Victories

I didn’t know Mr. Rogers would turn out to be my minder during this season. Here’s how it happened:

Through the book Running on Empty, I began to learn about Emotional Neglect. I do not have many of the symptoms the author describes in the book, but there is enough that resonates with me for me to acknowledge that I have been affected. I am taking some time this month to journal again on motherhood and attachment, with the added dimension of my new awareness of Emotional Neglect. One of the most revealing lines from the book was this:

...the only way to give your child what you don’t have yourself is to provide yourself with what you don’t have.
— Jonice Webb, Running on Empty

I have recently been able to identify and verbalize that what I most want to give my children is the gift of acceptance. I also recognize that I have felt hugely incapable of carrying out this desire, like something in me is missing. I believe now, after reading the book, that this feeling of a missing piece is a symptom of some degree of Emotional Neglect. (To clarify: The author gives many case studies that are helpful in showing that Emotional Neglect is not something that happened but rather something that didn’t happen. It is neither emotional abuse nor physical neglect, and is often much more subtle and almost unrecognizable while it is occurring).

If I want to give my children acceptance, and if the quote above is true, then I need to give myself the gift of acceptance.

I did not have a clue how this might be possible. I happened to be reading The World According to Mister Rogers at the same time as Running on Empty, and after I finished the Mr. Rogers book, I took some time this past Saturday to copy down a few of my favorite quotes from the book. Several pages in the book were lyrics to Mr. Rogers’ songs, which I decided to watch on YouTube.

As I watched Mr. Rogers sing, especially the song “It’s You I Like,” it immediately began to feel healing, like he was giving me the gift of acceptance so I could give it to myself. It actually surprised me how drawn I felt to these words and the sincerity of Mr. Rogers’ message, to the way he looks right at me and talks directly to me as he sings. I have watched this video and a couple others at least a dozen times since, both with the kids and alone. I even decided to buy the “Songs from the Neighborhood : The Music of Mister Rogers” album on iTunes.

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Now I am certain that Mr. Rogers is meant to be one of my teachers in this season.

The right teacher could work miracles. I was snatched off the path of self-loathing by teachers who were on the ball and saw ways to redirect my fear into creation. This would be my prayer for the child - one amazing teacher.
— Anne Lamott, Almost Everything

I want to believe Mr. Rogers’ words - that other people can like me, the real me that is “deep down inside,” and it doesn’t have to just be about me liking myself. It’s hard to describe something that feels so subtle inside myself, but already I am sensing things happening differently in how I relate to the kids than even just a few days ago before I began listening to these songs. I also think Mr. Rogers can model for me what it means to engage with my children on their feelings. I already have one story in the books along these lines, which I’ll have to save for another day. For now, I am celebrating the fact that God sent along Mr. Rogers, Ellen, and Holly as minders to help point me in the right direction.