This weekend The Girl and I attended a safe driving class at a Toyota Dealership. I know, she’s young, but the opportunity presented itself and it seemed right so we went. I argued that she’s still young enough to listen to me, so I better strike while the iron is hot.
She resisted so much that I almost cancelled and other than her crashing the car during the simulated driving experience, I’m not sure she’d tell you she had fun, but I was so glad we went. It turned out to be a nice day together and I learned a few things about parenting that I thought I already had covered but saw instead that I needed a little work.
We did an exercise where we had to list qualities of a great coach and then rate ourselves. The Girl, never one for conforming, wanted us to rate each other instead. I got high marks in things like patience and fairness (kinda surprising, actually) and low marks in consistency, predictability and encouraging. The first two surprised me and when I talked to her about it afterward it turns out we had different definitions for those traits. She agreed that as far as routines, rules and expectations I was both predictable and consistent (phew!) but she rated me low because she said I sometimes I do goofy things or change plans to add in fun which was neither predictable or consistent. I’ll take low marks if it means she thinks I’m fun!
The score that was low that, sadly, didn’t surprise me, was for encouraging. I know I ride my kids too much sometimes and I have high expectations for each of them. I try to tailor those expectations around their individual strengths, but it turns out high expectations aren’t enough. I’m not doing enough cheerleading when they reach them and that can be discouraging.
I know this. I’m painfully aware of this but until now I thought I was compensating enough that I was the only one who noticed.
In a conversation that followed, my girl, close to tears, admitted it’s hard sometimes when people just expect the best from you and never congratulate you when you get it. Now, I’d argue the “never” part of that statement, but no matter what I think, her perspective hit me loud and clear-she doesn’t feel like we celebrate her enough and that plain stinks.
It’s not just at home. She’s feeling it at school as well, where she sees the kids who act out getting out of being in trouble while she’s feeling pressure from teachers to perform 100%, yet some of them can’t even get her name right. It seems her predictability and consistency has her feeling like she’s blending into the background. And The Girl hates nothing more than blending.
I can’t control the school environment and I told her that and coached her a bit in how sometimes you work with and for people who aren’t outward encouragers and you just have to find validation elsewhere (I would know.). I can’t change school but I can change my own behavior. I have to, she’s flat out asked me to.
I am not a cheerleader. I hung up those white Tretorns in the 8th grade and buried any bit of rah rah I had left in me.
I am strong. I will fight for my children like a mama bear when I need and as witnessed by my girl, I can be goofy and fun. But encouraging? Clearly, I need to work on that. I know I say every night that I love them and am proud of them. I even try to point out one thing from the day I am particularly proud of. But she’s not hearing any of that at a time when she needs it most and I have to do something about that.
I am totally certain there is no way I can match her level of enthusiasm. The Girl has life-spirit in spades. But I can try to point out more that is great. I can try to celebrate her more. I can try to encourage and cheerlead. I can stretch totally out of my even-keeled, middle of the road, consistent and predictable comfort zone and pull some rah-rah out for my kids.
After all, they’re telling me they need it and I better listen while they still hear me.