Working mum of three

Figuring it out as we go along. Blogging is cheaper than therapy.

What do you do when you see your weaknesses in your kid?

  
One of my first jobs was as a cleaner in a cafe, followed by a promotion to sandwich preparer. I carefully arranged salad in bread for others more qualified to stuff with proper filling. Eventually I was deemed competent enough to become a ‘La Baguette du Jour girl’. Imagine my horror when someone returned to complain that there wasn’t enough tomato in their Mediterranean Medley. I cried so much, that I had to work in the back kitchen for the rest of the day because my boss was worried that customers would think she was beating the staff. 

In Australia, on my year out, I wasn’t cut out for veg picking for very long (something I have reflected upon for years). Having finally made it into the factory, to sort red peppers by quality into boxes, I was gutted to have my number called and have to do the walk of shame to the boss who pulled grade C peppers out of my grade A box. How could I have got it so wrong?

I once had to brief the Big Boss in New York. It was pretty rare that I had to go to his office to talk about my issue, which was very much further down his agenda than mine. I was flustered, I wanted the him to know that I was working hard, doing everything I could, busily. My kindly colleague even offered to print my papers while I took a moment to freshen up. I didn’t take the hint. Instead I arrived at his office, harassed, frazzled, puffing. I’m not sure at which point I realised that my performance might not have given the best impression, but it was long after. So focused was I on letting him know that I was working hard, I overlooked letting him know I had it under control. 

I could go on and on with stories about a true fear of making mistakes in public and what other people think. 

So imagine the stomach churning fear when my 7yo blurted out between sobs recently: ‘[my friend] says I’m rubbish at stuff’. Hold the fucking phone: firstly, proof, if it were needed, that gender has nothing to do with overly emotional and destructive internal monologues. Secondly, how can it be possible that my perfect boy doesn’t think he’s good enough? And thirdly, who is this child and where does he live?

He’s always been a sensitive soul; I see the fear rise in him when someone asks him a question or if he thinks he’s been caught out. That first less than glowing school report that had him sobbing his heart out all the way home. The blind frustration and rage that bubbles out after a brotherly injustice. ‘I don’t want to say it’ he mumbles ‘they might laugh at me’. So familiar and so cringe, I know exactly how he feels; fearing questions, dreading getting it wrong, feeling not quite good enough. It’s easier not to put you hand up than to not get picked. He gets away with it, at least in part, because there is often a low expectation: ‘that’s boys for you’ they say. Worse than that, he’s beginning to use it as an excuse, he doesn’t expect to be good at stuff any more, and that’s where we’re letting him down. 

Desperate to save him from it, we’ve gone all out on homework and learning, and it’s paying off, he enjoys the feeling of impressing people. I’ve started telling him stories about when I’ve felt silly or made a mistake, and how I’ve dealt with it. He laughs at me and asks for more, hopefully taking comfort and maybe learning some self preservation skills. We shared a chuckle the other day when he asked me ‘what animal do you know the most about?’ ‘I know a little bit about lots of animals, what would you like to know?’ I replied, not wanting to be caught out. Later, he asked the same question of Rich who replied ‘I know loads about loads of animals, what would you like to know?’. Rich has a confidence and doesn’t fear mistakes in a way that I will always be envious of and wish for the boys to inherit. 

Meanwhile, 5yo has suddenly has embraced school, he’s completely figured out that the more the teachers think you are good (and cute), the more mischief you can get away with. It’s been a major transformation as he proudly repeats his day of learning then asks if he can practice his big brother’s reading book. He’s impressive and admirable. And a massive wind up merchant. 

It’s tough for us as parents to get used to these role reversals; 7yo who was always the quiet, considerate, smart one was suddenly struggling to keep up. While 5yo was the wacky, mischievous, funny one has been rocking it. (2yo, is a moany, sleepless, pain in the neck right now so let’s hope that role-reverses soon!). So just when you think you’ve got their number, they go and amaze you. Everyday these charming, sensitive boys are out there figuring it out by themselves, finding their own place, and believing they are worthy is part of it. That’s what we’re hoping to teach them, more than their times tables or word building, to have confidence in who they are. And everyday, that’s what they’re teaching me too.

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