Thursday, August 21, 2008

It Starts Early

I already see it in my children--the anxiety about perfection. My daughter will cry that her drawing doesn't look good--that her princess doesn't look like a princess or that the door to her castle isn't very good. That she can't draw as good as me.

My son is five years old and usually refuses to sing the alphabet song because says he doesn't know it well enough. He doesn't like to do anything until he thinks he can do it well--or perfectly. We have worked on this with him, letting him know that there is no harm in just giving it a try.

So, on a day like today, when my son keeps getting into trouble, I start to feel as if I'm telling him he's a failure. Granted, he simply may not hit the dog, he needs to behave reasonably well at the table, and if I tell him not to knock over the girl's project, he shouldn't knock it over. But my own anxiety begins to grow when I start to sense that he feels like he's failing. And I'm just not sure what to do about that. At bedtime tonight, he said, "I just want to be a grown up."

Certainly, I try to reinforce the positive. I will try to increase that since, clearly, he seems to be acting out in order to get some attention (whether he realizes it or not). But there must be some other, more specific strategies we could implement. He starts kindergarten next week, and that will have its challenges. He already knows that his teachers will be asking him to hold his pen differently. (He currently holds it in his closed fist, which, so far, has not impeded his drawing talent. He draws AWESOME pictures.)

We expect so much from kids these days. Last spring I read the book Overachievers by Alexandra Robbins, and I felt exhaustion just reading about the lives of such go-getter teenagers. I just want my kids to be happy. I don't care about the Ivy Leagues. But how I do I make sure they feel "good enough" when, so often, their behavior (or whatever) is being corrected by me or someone else?

I will be thinking about this as we head off to Bel Air for the wedding. I'm looking forward to the trip, but I'm sort of sad to leave the little guy behind right now. I'd like to give him some Mommy time. But on Monday, the girl goes to school, and he doesn't, so we can have a special day-before-kindergarten outing in order to have some quality time.

Back on Sunday!

1 comment:

Louise said...

Your children sound a lot like their Mommmy! In so many aspects of your life "good enough" is so much more than just "good", especially in the eyes of others. Perhaps the boy and the girl will learn that it's just important to show up and do the very best they can and ENJOY the process.

In the immortal words of Will Smith from Just the Two of Us:

I pledge to you I will always do
Everything I can
To show you how to be a man
Dignity integrity honor
And I don't mind if you lose as long as you came with it
And you can cry ain't no shame it it.....