[If you're here for cute and not crying, scroll down for a video of Baby Babybel!]
In this past year of life you’ve learned to swim, become a legit reader and were commended as being the most improved soccer player on your team.
You lost several teeth, all in strange places or circumstances: while eating a banana, on the Santa Monica pier, on a camping trip, in your sleep. You were so terrified to lose your second tooth (the first was so traumatizing) that it was dangling by a thread by the time it just casually dropped out of your mouth, like: hey guys, whatever, I'm outie. Now, losing teeth is old hat.
I’ve seen your confidence grow as you try new things, take risks and find success. You still trend towards perfectionism, but I like to think that my own struggles with perfectionism (and the millions of parenting articles I’ve read about it) help me to help you. I praise your effort and not results. As difficult as it is (because you really are super smart!), I don’t outright tell you that you’re smart (a fixed trait). Instead, I tell you that you’re a good problem solver, that you are clever or think creatively and that you really flex your brain muscles! Growth mindset! Woot!
And I don’t tell you to just go ahead and stop being a perfectionist already--easier said than done. I know all too well that does no good and kind of makes you feel worse for your perfectionist ways. Instead, I try to say things like: that’s frustrating, that didn’t turn out the way you wanted it to, did it?
On the other hand, sometimes I can get kind of tiger-mothery. Even so, I try try try try to say more constructive things like: it’s okay if it’s not perfect, but just ask yourself if that is the best job you can do?
You’re hard enough on yourself for the lot of us. If it’s been a rough day, you sit in front of your homework and stare blankly at it. When I encourage (then tell, then command) that you start working, you devolve into a puddle of tears, because, “I know how to do it. I just don’t know how to do it.” You’re paralyzed by making a mistake.
It doesn’t help that first grade homework is hard. Not content-wise. Not that you’re incapable of it. But, it’s just such an odd developmental age where we’re demanding so much focus from six year olds, when I wish you could still be doing things like pretend play and music and art. Or at least, more of it.
A couple weeks after you started first grade, I was delivering my typical teary-eyed, bedtime lament about how much you are growing and learning and how proud I am of you. But, that you’ll always be my baby. As you rubbed the tears from your eyes, you said, “I want to stay a baby. I want to go back to kindergarten.” When I asked why, you replied, “First grade is hard and it’s boring. I have to sit at a desk all day. And I don’t have anyone to play with on the playground. I just wander around.”
And my introverted heart just broke--mostly from my own traumatic playground-wandering flashbacks. Telling you to buck up was the absolute last thing I would do. Duh! Instead I made you cry more by acknowledging how sad that must make you feel. I told you how I felt the same way when I was your age and, frankly, I still feel that way a lot of the time.
While I want with all my being for you to have friends and not feel isolated, I also know that holding you to our society’s extroverted standard can also be damaging on your self worth. So, I tried to equip you with some actually helpful tools, first and foremost a book to read at recess. LOL. Nothing says “I’m an introvert!” like having your nose in a book. And I told you that one of the wonderful things about you is how observant you are. Perhaps you could spend a couple of recesses watching to see who looks kind or alone or quiet and ask him or her to play. When I checked in a couple days later, you were like NBD. I’m pretty sure you found the least introverted kids to play with, so there goes my advice.
You had a similar breakdown over buying lunch at school, because you were concerned that you didn’t know how to do it and that you would have to sit at a different (lunch-buyers) table than the (lunch-bringers) table you were used to sitting at. (Don’t get me started on the socio-economic implications of this policy). I coached you through the logistics of adjusting to this change and asked you if there were any friendly faces at the lunch-buyers table. And, once you thought about it, you realized that one of your best friends buys lunch.
And not packing you a lunch made my Monday mornings at least 50% easier.
Your daddy was sifting through some files on his old hard drive last week and randomly came across this video of you when you were two-ish. We could’ve sat there all day delving through photos and videos--like you and your sister do with YouTube unboxing videos--but it seemed perfect for this moment in time.
In it, you observe, “I can’t see my eyes!” and ask, “Where is me?” as a hat falls over your face. Just watch it, you’ll love how it ends:
“I find me!”
And isn’t that what all this is about? Each day, each moment? Feeling a little bit lost, unseen, in the dark? Questioning who and what and where you are? And, ultimately, finding yourself.
And then, later, next time, you’re ready. When that lost feeling comes again, when you might lose a tooth, when you lose focus, when the math problem or Life Problem seems too difficult, too big, too overwhelming, when you’re alone, afraid of being alone, when you don’t know where to sit, when you don’t know where you belong--you just sit in that dark a minute. And you wait for questions or answers or silence.
Then, you catch a glimpse of the light sneaking through the cracks, you remember how brave you are, how you did it before, how to trust yourself. And you pull off the [Giants batting] helmet, the armor, the cloak of fear, the comfort of your blankie, the guises and the facade. You step into the light. You are you. You are enough. You are right where you ought to be. You are found.
I know it’s melodramatic, but from the mouths of babes, amiright?
Love you no matter what,