My child amazes me.  His confidence in himself and his abilities is, for the most part, extraordinary.  Where he gets it is beyond me.  Confidence has never been my forte.  As a middle child, I am an assimilator.  I have never fought for attention, I just meld in.  I tend to not stand out.  I am not a strong communicator.  I despise small talk and do not normally remember names or even faces unless the person is in my life a lot.  On the other hand, B is all of this.

It struck me most recently when I was walking with him the other day.  I meet him on his way home from school to cross him across a pretty busy street.  While we were there, another parent with two children walked past him.  As she walked past, I kind of did what I always do – ducked my head and nodded.  In stark contrast, B looked the adult in the eyes and said, “Sorry, ma’am, I’ll move my bike; I was just giving my mom my backpack.”  The mom smiled and told him it was no problem.  As she crossed the two little girls, one of them fell in the road.  Ben (after crossing safely) went to the mom and asked, “Is she all right?  Can I help?”  All was well, but then as we enter gymnastics, this mom and little girl were there.  B immediately recognized them and made small talk.  It was the little girl’s first time at the gym, so B took it upon himself to show her the ropes.  I am in the background, silent.  I nod to mom and go sit down and read my book and watch my chid with the other gym moms – most of them chit chatting with each other.

Chid psychologist, Meghan Leahy, reflected on confidence in children when she wrote in a Washington Post parenting advice column, “Confidence, for children, is a result of feeling accepted and safe. Think about that for a moment. Confidence, or that ‘venture forth’ chutzpah we see in many children, comes from a deep place that can be cultivated . . . Confidence can be inspired by caring adults, and it can be recognized and grown — but it cannot be given. The ability to feel confident can differ from child to child and temperament to temperament.”

It can also differ from place to place.

My child exudes confidence in nearly all places.  There are two places where he is shy and awkward and unsure of himself.  There are only two places that he stumbles over his words and his actions and that his lack of confidence is so deep it interferes with his performance.  After reading this article, it caused me pause because the difference in his confidence has bothered me for some time and I could not figure out why B is so incredibly confident in all places but these two.

One place he only visits once or twice a year, so that is mostly caused by being unfamiliar with the place and the people and the circumstance, I am sure.

But the other is a place that he is in a number of times a week.  No matter how successful he is there; no matter how much praise he gets; it does not feel safe for him.

Last night, he had a meltdown and said pretty boldly, “I feel like crap when I am there.  I can’t do anything right.”

So the question becomes, what do I do?  Will it boost his confidence by gutting it out and staying and getting some success?  Or am I killing his confidence by telling him he should stick it out?  It is a never-ending conflict.  As a child, the answer from my parents was always, if you do not like something, quit.  I have a lot of regrets that I walked away from some pretty cool things the first time it got a little difficult.  I do not want this for him.  But I also do not want him to hate something because he stayed too long.

I wish I had the confidence that B does in most places to know what to do and go with it.

Easy Friendships

IMG_2303My son has been inseparable from his best friend since they were introduced (maybe assigned is the best term) to each other in preschool.  For the past 5-6 years, B&E have fallen into an easy friendship.

They complement each other incredibly well.  E is shy until he gets around B and then he just transforms.  B is braver when he is with E.  He will try things and do things that he would not do alone.  They are better together.

They go weeks without seeing each other, and sometimes months.  They do not go to school together.  They are not in the same sports.  E likes team sports and B is more into individual sports.  They are so opposite, yet so similar.  They fill in each other’s gaps and lift each other higher than they would achieve on their own.

When they are together, they are difficult to separate.  This past weekend, B had a surprisingly empty schedule and asked to spend his days with E.  I listened to them giggling while watching Weird Al videos.  Pondering while watching Dan TDM videos.  Engaging each other while playing Minecraft and Terraria.  This is where this thought I had about easy friendships.

B&E were sitting on the edge of B’s loft bed, side-by-side, and having the calmest discussion about  hurt feelings.  While it seems trivial, their communication with each other about how they were feelings was poignant, especially for boys.  B had killed E somehow (I truly do not understand the Minecraft thing completely) and E was upset.  E very calmly said to B, “It makes me mad when you kill my guy.  I didn’t kill yours and I could have.”  B responds, “I’m so sorry, dude.  I won’t do it again.  I don’t know why I did it.  It was really mean.”  That was it.  All was well.

I was so proud of the two of them for identifying their feelings and then expressing them in a really healthy conversation.  There were no lingering feelings of betrayal or hurt.  There was no tension in the air when it was over.  It was so matter-of-fact, yet completely genuine.

These two are my definition of #FriendshipGoals.  I could not love a duo more!

Creating Space — QuietAsI’mKept

My son is quickly growing older and our conversations are quickly moving into areas that are difficult. Often when I try to talk to him about certain topics, he clams up, blushes, and exasperatedly sighs, “Moo-oom!!” B and I have always had a strong relationship. We have always been close. I want that to remain […]

via Creating Space — QuietAsI’mKept

Creating Space

My son is quickly growing older and our conversations are quickly moving into areas that are difficult.  Often when I try to talk to him about certain topics, he clams up, blushes, and exasperatedly sighs, “Moo-oom!!”

B and I have always had a strong relationship.  We have always been close.  I want that to remain especially through this next phase of puberty and hormones and tweenage.  I need him to have a safe place to ask questions that keep him safe.

I have bought him books to help him answer questions about his body and situations that he will find himself in that I have little knowledge of having the distinct problem of lacking a phallus.  But there are issues that we need to flesh out.  Issues that I need him to discuss with me.  In order to make that happen, we have found two safe places for these deep discussions:  the moments before he falls to sleep in the dark and long car rides.

B is an amazing child (I understand my bias, but this belief has been reinforced by everyone who has met him).  He understands issues far beyond his years and is fiercely loyal to the concept of doing the right thing.  I never want him to lose this.  But the concept of Doing the Right Thing continues to get more convoluted as he grows up.  The line between right and wrong is blurry.

At 8 the right thing is defending your friend.  At 9 and 10, what if your friend is doing something really wrong.  For example, he has a friend who has a crush on a little girl in class.  But this friend is using some rather alarming ways of displaying this affection.  He follows her around and takes notes on what she says and wears and how she wears her hair.  B found out about this and said, “MOM! That is so weird and _______ is scared of him!”  Yes, baby doll, that is a really frightening way to show someone your affection and I am so glad he recognized this.  But it cannot end there.  That conversation needs to extend.  Which friend does he defend?  How does he do this without hurting the other one’s feelings?  Does it even matter if he hurts the other one’s feelings? What is a better way his friend could share his feelings?  How do you make the women and girls in your life feel safe?  What can he do to show his friend who is a girl that while she may not need his protection, he is there if she does?  How will this same situation look as he gets older?  How can he recognize this in the people he is around?  This was our conversation last night.

Interestingly, I read an article earlier in the day by Glennon Doyle Melton about the conversation that you need to be having with your tweens and teens and shared it saying that these conversations cannot start too early.  B is in a class with very few kids and that number will continue to shrink as they move up and some kids or their parents elect to move into different/easier/more aligned to the child’s learning classes.  These are the children that he will likely have in his class into and through high school.  he needs to know how to deal with this in a way that he can communicate to his friend who is a boy that this behavior is not acceptable and to communicate to his friend who is a girl that he is aware and does not agree with his friend who is a boy and will be there to help her feel safe should she need it.

I do make sure that B knows his role in different group situations.  He has two children who are in one of his sports with him who are just starting at his school this year as third graders.  We discussed how they might feel and I asked him ways that he can help make them feel more comfortable.  He is not particularly close to these children, but he knows them and they are teammates and he wants to be sure that they feel welcome and that they have friends to sit with and play with during the most frightening times of the day for new kids – lunch and recess.

Growing older only brings on more situations that he needs to hash out with someone who can help give him perspective; someone who can help him work through his feelings; and someone who can help him to figure out HOW to get through situations in the best possible way.  I give him these spaces to bring me those deepest, most frightening conversations that are too difficult face-to-face and in the light.  I hope that he will always find solace there or at least understand that no topic is off limits.  This is the entire meaning of, “Quiet as it’s kept . . . ”  It is a place of conversation that remains where it lies – in the dark, in the backseat, eyes not needing to meet because our hearts are always there.