I grew up thinking I was ok. Okay in the average sense of the word not the “A-Ok” sense. Pretty good at a whole lot of things but not great at any of them. I’m not sure why I felt so mediocre but somewhere along the line this is the feeling that was instilled in me. I had an older brother who I felt could do no wrong. I was the younger sister that would enter her new class in elementary school and the teacher would say, “so you’re Lee Rudy’s little sister” and I would have this expectation to live up to and never quite did… I’m sure Lee has his side of the story where his little sister was the one with all the friends (or maybe he didn’t care) but this is MY blog so I’ll stick to my side. My parents were wonderful – supportive, loving, fun, passionate and encouraging. But they were NOT the parents that bragged about their kids, touted our accomplishments to their friends or acquaintances or raved on and on about us. I often would hear my friend’s parents saying how GREAT they were doing at this or that, how many goals they scored, how perfect their boyfriend/girlfriend was, etc. and I would hear my mom exclaiming how great it was for them. I remember asking her why she didn’t do that about me and she’d simply say that it made her uncomfortable to boast about me. It made sense at the time (I remember thinking it was obnoxious of her friends to talk so much about their kids without asking much about us) but I wonder now how it affected me in the long run.
And what I really think about today is how to deal with this with MY kids. What’s the perfect mix of instilling tremendous confidence in your kids without making them the asshole who thinks they are god’s gift but who thinks they are good enough to at least TRY anything with the expectation they will succeed? I tell Hannah each and every day at some point how beautiful she is. Most days I also tell her how smart she is. (And then there are the handful of days that I tell her she acts like a crazy person who needs to be locked up in a crazy person house…. oops). I recently have had to explain to her that she shouldn’t tell OTHER people how beautiful and smart she is which she didn’t quite get. “But you tell me I’m beautiful, why can’t I tell my friends? Why is it a secret?”. It’s a tough concept especially because I will not stop telling her. I want her to feel proud of every little thing she accomplishes and not to ever feel she can’t try something. At 4 years old she should have NO fear of failure. (Although when she told someone in the playground that she was the female version of Flash and the fastest girl alive, my husband and I had to wonder if we should pull back some).
There are also the parents that even if their child does NOT have the talent will push for them so hard until they get what the parent wants for them even if it’s not deserved. Huh? Sorry, that was a little long-winded… I’ll give you an example. I got a call from a coach at Hannah’s gymnastics school last week saying she heard Hannah was great and should try out for the “Pre-school Elite” class. I laughed out loud. “Preschool Elite”? I said, “really? what is she so good at?”. There was silence on the other end. I guess Coach wasn’t used to a parent not gushing more at the invitation but honestly, besides being able to touch her nose to her knee and jumping really high on the trampoline I hadn’t seen such amazing talent. I just knew she had fun and wanted her to continue having fun. At the next gymnastics class I asked another mom if her daughter (whom she had previously told me was “scouted” for an advanced class) was trying out for the PeeWee Elites. Bad. Idea. After a lot of bitch bitch bitching that she hadn’t gotten the call Miss Mom said she’d be making a call and Make No Mistake, her daughter would be trying out. Alright then. She was going to be That Mom who pushes her kids to get something they don’t deserve. But it wouldn’t matter, because in the end, all that mattered to her was that she could tell people her child had succeeded, no matter what the road taken. It made me so angry. (btw, Hannah made the Elite class and yes, I’m bragging about her).
On the other hand, a dose of reality also needs to be added to the mix. I’m not sure at what age this should come into play but you see where too much parent “pumping up” can be a problem with all the reality TV. I mean really, where is the mom or friend of the American Idol contestant who CLEARLY has no singing talent? These people need a mom to say, “sweetie, I know you love to sing, and I love to hear you sing around the house, behind closed doors but for-god-sakes, don’t embarrass yourself (and the family) in front of the world!”. Or there are the people who have some other talent, say, calligraphy and their parents say, “you make such beautiful cards, you should start your own business!”. Next thing you know, they have dumped their life saving into this business only to find there are 17 million other great calligraphers out there and actually MACHINES that can do calligraphy… and now one very sad, broke calligrapher. And look at me now. 37, married, 2 kids and finally some confidence. I had a few friends tell me that I am funny based on a few Facebook status updates and here I am sharing my life with total strangers (all 4 or 5 of you), thinking I can make you laugh. But at least I’m not trying out for Last Comic Standing. Yet.