Tuesday, September 02, 2008

On Being Fearless

A recent post of Mango Mama’s about her daughter Olivia got me thinking again about Viva and her confidence. I’d had this post floating around in my head for a few days, but it hadn’t yet gelled (my brain is not as perky as it used to be). But what it boils down to is that while Viva has increasingly become more physically confident – plunging into the water without a second thought when swimming, shaking off bumps and falls when playing soccer, clearly feeling her power during kung fu – socially, she is still a bit timid.

I blame myself, of course. One thing about Sweet Dub is he is never timid about anything, so I know she ain’t gettin’ it from him. Dub has pretty much taken charge of Viva’s physical education lately, taking her bike riding, signing her up for kung fu (which is the cutest damn thing you have ever seen), and the like. When she sits with me to read a book together, or to write a note to someone, she is cautious. If she starts reading a word and mispronounces it, and realizes she is reading it wrong, she will look at me anxiously. “I can’t do it,” she’ll say.

“Of course you can,” I say. “You’re such a good reader. Sound it out. You almost had it, just start the word over from the beginning.” Then she will start over and read it correctly, I’ll praise her for getting it right, and nonetheless she may stumble over the next couple of words. I don’t know where this is coming from, but I’m thinking that (and I don’t want to blame the baby for everything, BUT) she is regressing a bit because if she’s having trouble with something, I’ll give her extra attention. Since she craves being with me or her dad or both constantly lately, this makes sense, but it’s frustrating.

Tomorrow is School Picture Day. (Oh yes, kindergarten started THREE WEEKS AGO, did I not mention it? So much for summer vacation.) This morning she said, “I’m not sure what to do for School Picture Day.”

“Sweetie, all you have to do is smile,” I said.

“But what if you don’t like the picture?” she said.

“How could I not like a picture of you? I love every picture of you I have ever seen,” I said.

“So no matter what it looks like, you’ll like it?” she said.

“Of course,” I said. “I really don’t want you to worry about it, babes.”

I started out this post thinking in my self-absorbed fashion that I had passed my tendencies toward a lack of self-confidence* on to my child – and indeed, maybe I have on some level. I should say that, having wrestled with esteem issues through adolescence and my early 20s, for the most part I think I am The Shizznit, though like all of us I have moments of self-doubt. But as I started typing, I realized what is truly going on here. (You see, the usefulness of blogging? Gives you time for a little evaluation, reflection and awareness and all that, if you only make time for it.)

I think the impending arrival of Rosie**, as Viva calls her, is making my little crumb cake feel a bit insecure***. And this is totally normal. And her constant wrestling with her daddy, and her constant testing of limits, is all about that. And now I just want to go pick her up from school and smother her with kisses and tell her I know she is scared that we won’t love her as much when the baby comes, but nothing could be further from the truth. Poor little thing and her fragile psyche. I don’t know how she could imagine her parents don’t completely adore her and would gladly throw ourselves under a train to spare her any hurt, but I guess that hasn’t fully come across.

Here’s to being bold, and to the confidence that comes from knowing that folks have your back. Here’s to making mistakes and having the courage to try again. Here’s to believing the positive about yourself.

* I know, hard to believe. My sister once told me, “You think you’re better than everyone else,” to which I snidely replied that her statement said more about her than about me. “Don’t hang your insecure bullshit on me,” I said. I love my sister, but you know how siblings can push each other’s buttons like no one else can? Yeah, it’s like that.

** Not her real name.

*** This weekend, I had to sing Viva an old Sesame Street song because she was making a card for a friend and she mis-spelled something and started freaking out about having to start over. Do you remember this song (sung by Big Bird)?

Oh, everyone makes mistakes, oh yes they do
Your sister and your brother and your dad and mother too
Big people, small people
Matter of fact, all people
Everyone makes mistakes so why can’t you?
If everyone in the whole wide world makes mistakes


Cee in SF said...

You're a good mommy and a good person. I like that.

bridget in oregon said...

Holy Daycare, Batman. Don't all these "phases" that our children go through just tear you up inside? I know they do that to me. For the past year or so my oldest daughter keeps apologizing for stuff, even when things/issues have nothing to do with her. I keep reassuring her to the contrary and I think I know possibly some of the reasons why she does this (ie: sibling related) but I still worry about her being strong.
Hang in there with Viva and I'll do the same.

aoc gold said...

This Is Just to Say

I have eaten

the plums

that were in

the icebox


and which

you were probably


for breakfast


Forgive me

they were delicious

so sweet

and so cold

-----------bymaple story account

Mango Mama said...

Thanks for the shout-out and I'm right with you... blogging helps me work a lot of stuff out.

I think you've definitely hit the nail on the head and I also think we sometimes underestimate the encoded messages our little ones receive when they're not with us or from outside influences, i.e. TV. Sometimes I try to be a fly on the wall and observe my son, Yannick, interact with his buddies. They're 6 year-olds and I'm always surprised by some of the things they say to each other, both of the positive and negative nature, and I often find myself working to deprogram some of the things my kids hear from their peers.

MBB, so often you've mentioned how difficult the job of parenting is and each time you've said a mouthful. Thanks so much for expanding this discussion.

Lisa Blah Blah said...

cee: Aw, thanks. I'm trying!

Bridget: What strikes me about parenting is that our kids are not growing up in a bubble - there are so many outside influences, so no matter how well you feel you're doing your job with them in your little sphere, you always have to run interference with the outside. I'm wondering if that's where your daughter's apologizing comes from?

It's so hard. You just have to keep doing what you're doing and reinforce what a great kid you think she is!

AOC: I do like plums.

MM: I find myself doing the same thing - trying to run interference on what other kids have told Viva and she parrots back. In her defense, she already has a pretty decent BS meter so usually she's repeating something that she's questioning anyway. I find that she's glad when we tell her that her skepticism is justified!

Thanks, and let's keep the discussion going!