There are a few stand out moments for me as a parent. One was when I realized it was wrong for me to lose control of my anger in front of my child. This is about another.
Not long ago, I was having an especially difficult time as a parent of a teen. I was truly at my edge of reason and ready to grow my hair long enough to pull it out. Rob asked me a question. "What is the one thing that you wanted most as a teenager? Find it and give it."
Self-confidence. That was easy. And, while I can't give it, I can certainly encourage it.
That helped with a discussion last night, just before bed, just me and Sydney. What if...just what if you stick with track and run your best and you're still on the bench? Or, what if those other girls that you think are so much faster than you, aren't really faster. Or, what if they're better in an event that you're not good at, so you get to compete in an event that you are good at because they're off doing something else? What if you tried out tomorrow and made the team?
How do you talk to girls? Girls are so emotional. Sydney can tear up in a discussion about the earth rotating around the sun, so how do I press "what if you tried..." How do I encourage someone that's primed for failure; that still doesn't think she's good enough? And how do I teach the difference between "trying and failing at track" and "pretending to try and failing at school work"? Why is one okay and not the other? Isn't that a double standard? It's okay to fail at the hundred yard dash, but it's not okay to bring home a C in math.
I don't know.
So, I did what I did know. I just didn't let up. Every time she told me she wasn't good enough, I pressed again; "what if you just did your best?" When she teared up and wanted to cry; "what if you just did your best?" When she complained that there were other girls that were better than her; "what if you just did your best?" And, the whole time, acknowledging that she's worried about it.
And, while I'm preaching it to her, I'm going through it for myself. Where is my own self confidence?
I couldn't even write a bio about myself to encourage people to take my class? I had to write it in the third person. Because I can talk about that other guy better than I can talk about who and what I am. I can tell you what "he" knows better than I can tell you what "I" know. I can tell you how great "he" is, but I cannot tell you that "I" have a skill. Blogging has meant I've had to learn to use "I" and "me" in print. But, these people are going to see me face-to-face. They know who I am. How do I talk to them about "me"? I couldn't. So, I talked to them about "him"
I can't give my child self-confidence. But, I can foster it. I can build her up and make her laugh and make her feel better about herself and accept herself for who she is instead of regretting that she's not a hundred and twelve pound blond with a perfectly pointy nose. I can tell her she's pretty and special and lucky. I can tell her that she needs to find people that deserve to be around her; especially boys (thanks Lucy for encouraging that). I can make time for her and sometimes make her priorities be my priorities. I can criticize and nag and discipline without making her feel like she's less than.
I can build up her ego until she knows her uncommon value.
And, I can take care of myself in ways that she can see. I can try new things that are hard for me to do. And, when I fail, I can let her know I failed and how I feel about it.
I can build up my ego until I know my uncommon value.
And, I can make sure she knows that I make mistakes and that I get scared. But, I keep doing my best.