Last month I read Ariel Chesler’s “Mitzvah Notes for Mommy” and was inspired to write mitzvah notes for Isabelle. You see, ever since Isabelle turned three I’ve understood why people have said three is worse than two. It was as if someone flipped a switch the day she turned three. Isabelle has been asserting her independence and advocating for what she wants much, much more than she did when she was two.
I want to focus on the positive, not the negative things, Isabelle does. Last Wednesday I grabbed a pad of sticky notes and a Sharpie and called asked her to sit down on the couch next to me since I wanted to talk about some of the helpful things she’s been doing. Once we got settled on the couch, I began creating Mitzvah Notes alongside Isabelle. With each one, I told her what she did that was helpful or caring. Then, I drew a picture with my pathetic stick figure art since she cannot read. Next, I summarized what I told her (and what the picture showed) into a sentence. Finally, I stuck it on the wall (just out of her reach) in her play room.
The first day I created Mitzvah Notes for Isabelle, I wrote four of them. Each time I finished one she said, “Talk more, Mommy.” Her face was positively glowing every time I told her something she did that was a mitzvah. (I explained a mitzvah to her not as a commandment, but as an act of kindness, so she can get a better understanding of the concept. Remember, she’s only three!)
I’ve added 1 – 2 things nearly every day since I started the Mitzvah Wall. Therefore, when my husband returned home from the grocery store with Isabelle today, I asked him if he’d like to add some items to the wall. He agreed it is important for Isabelle to get praise from both of us for her actions.
I went down to the basement and retrieved another pad of sticky notes in yellow. I gave him a Sharpie and encouraged him to bring her into the play room to talk through her mitzvot alongside him. Just as she did with me, she said, “talk more,” after he finished writing each one. (He wrote two for their time together today.) I reminded her the more good deeds she does, the more often she’ll see notes on the wall.
Right before lunchtime we FaceTimed with my in-laws. Isabelle approximated the word mitzvah when we were on the call since she wanted to show them her Mitzvah Wall. Once my husband explained it to them, she went over to the wall and, with great pride, pointed out some of the items. She used one or two words to label the good deeds she had done. For instance, she said, “tracks,” as a way of telling them she helped clean up her train tracks (bottom left). She also said, “mommy sleeping — shhh,” when she informed them she didn’t wake me when I slept in on the last ice day we had (middle).
I never thought I’d be lining one of the walls of my daughter’s play room with sticky notes. Right now this is a wonderful way to keep track of the good deeds she does. And when you’re three years-old and being redirected for a lot of the things you do, I think having a place to go to see all of the things you’re doing right is a wonderful thing.