I recently watched the Pixar classic The Incredibles for the four hundredth time last week and while the credits were rolling I received an interesting comment from my slightly more observant than usual four-year old. “Why do they celebrate when Dash doesn’t win?” What you might be saying to yourself right now is how many computer animated movies can one woman watch without qualifying as both annoying and juvenile? Answer, threshold about 1000, which I am well past by now. There’s a scene in there that sums up the flick quite nicely in a shiny bow wrapped package.
“When everybody’s special, then no one will be”.
How many times have I found myself cheering on one of my three at a sport they don’t excel at while they fumble around and otherwise destroy what could have been a perfectly good game? How many times have I enthusiastically screamed “good job!” when presented with a jumbled swirling mess that clearly did not represent their best efforts? The depressing answer is far too often. I’m not one of these soul crushing critics that voice their concerns about the need for improvement in various areas but I might just take it a little too far in the other direction. The proper foundations for massive failure are laid pretty early on in life and the more confident a kid is the better off they probably are in the long run but how much is too much? You can’t start telling your two-year old that his prospects don’t look too good or he’ll be hanging out in front of the 7/11 all day making dubious calls on his prepaid cell phone in no time.
Perhaps my negative perception of this whole idea of “I’m okay, you’re okay” is colored by the privileges I’ve had. I was smart, not a behavior problem in school and had nice similarly intelligent peers. I was never saddled with large or fine motor issues, dyslexia, crippling shyness, sensory problems or parents that were too busy. I was the center of attention at my home and pampered like a delicate princess with brittle bone syndrome. In other words, I freaking had it all. Sometimes I think I could have benefitted from some real adversity or obstacle I had to find a way to vault over, as it clearly builds character and a real understanding that the world doesn’t always work the way you want it too. I watch my three negotiate difficult and uncomfortable situations every day that would have made me fall completely apart at the same age. I try to imagine myself subjected to hours of rigorous tutoring and skill building sessions instead of running and playing in my neighborhood after school and know that after drowning in a puddle of my own tears I would have lost all hope and given up. Not my three. I’m not sure where they inherited their tenacity or never say die attitudes or why they apply this fierce determination to the most difficult of tasks- instead of say for instance putting on their clothes before school- but it’s not from me. Like the French, when there appears to be some sort of battle brewing, I raise my white flag and lay down and die. It usually takes an army of motivational speakers and someone pushing me along in a scooter to get me near something even approaching difficult, much less tackle it with unwavering chutzpah.
So, strangely I have managed to do a complete 180 about this whole thing from the beginning of this blog post until now. First I’m all like “hey, we shouldn’t reward people who should be on the short bus for being great when they’re not”. And then I’m all ” I’m a heartless idiot, because my kids have huge issues they have managed to overcome, so they deserve some core confidence building exercises despite not being the best at some things”. Further proof that I have no real concrete ideas of value and that if I ever ran for office my waffling back and forth on issues would lose me the election for sure.