Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Clever Thoughts -- Self Image and Parenting

I have a secret to tell you all. Most people would not believe it when they first meet me, but I am quite insecure. Completely overconfident in my ability to do anything I put my mind to, but not particularly good at liking myself. I don't like how excitable and emotional I can be. I don't like how dramatic I can be about everything. I don't like the fact that the humm of the computer in our study or the sound of the water heater in the basement can drive me crazy. I don't like that my list of interests and activities is so ecclectic and nerdy, or that sometimes I say things that make people stare at me like I have a second brain growing out of the side of my head. It drives me crazy that I can tell you all about the role of the chorus in Ancient Greek drama, but couldn't tell you what street my friends live on or what I am planning to do next Thursday. Essentially, there are a lot of things that bug me about myself.

There are a lot of things that bug me about my oldest son, too. Like the fact that he can get so caught up in the story that is going on in his head that he can't remember to put his shoes on. Or that he refuses to wear certain clothes because he doesn't like the feel of them against his body. It drives me crazy that he is interested in things that seem so odd and that he puts ideas together sideways sometimes to come up with weird and novel games. I wonder why he can use his blocks to build these fantastic, dreamlike structures, but has to come home and practice so he can build a rectangular car lot like his friends at school. I wonder why he has to scream every time something surprises him, why we have to have a daily drama about wether he can have a third cup of juice or not, and why he can get so excited about things that he is literally feverish.

Since school is back in, here is a little exercise for you: Compare and contrast the two lists above. You might notice something. The things that bug me about my son are, in essence, identical to the things that I do not like about myself. They are the things that got me teased at school, and that have made it hard for me to live in my family. They are the things that have made me vulnerable and the things that frustrate those around me. They are also some of my greatest strengths and the things that make me the unique individual that I am. They are the things people find endearing, and the things that fuel my creative, if rather scatterbrained, way of being. They are the things that are most essential to my personality.

I am coming to the realization that I need to learn to accept myself more. Not for my own sake, so much as for my son's sake. If I want him to be comfortable in his own skin, I have to show him the positive sides of the traits we share. It is my responsibility to teach him how to cope with the annoying noises and textures and incongruities that irritate both of us. It is my responsibility to help him tame his intensity so that he can express it in a way that is socially acceptable, instead of pushing it aside until it burst through in bouts of strange, over dramatic behavior. It is my responsibility to give him the tools to sort through his intense thoughts, feelings and experiences so that he is not overwhelmed by them. It is my responsibility to learn to like and manage myself so that I can help him to like and manage himself.

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