Saturday, October 5, 2013

Raising Reese

Reese on the 1st day of school 
I’m not sure I’m doing this right. This raising children thing is not easy. And if you have multiples, one size does not fit all. I’m learning the hard way that when you have more than one child, you love them equally, but not in the same way (I got that from my friend Katy Henderson). Learning the difference between the two can be a painful lesson for all. I have two boys, but raising Reese, my daughter, is completely different. While I realize the obvious distinction, the ones underneath take a little more scrutiny to detect. And when you’re a single parent, those hard-to-see traits can often be overlooked.

Those of you who read my blog are also probably friends of mine on Facebook. So you know that recently, I had an eye-opening experience at one of Reese’s soccer games. While I thought I was yelling encouraging words and helpful tips from the sidelines, she thought I was just yelling. I felt horrible for a few days because I could tell she perceived my over-zealous cheering to mean that I was not pleased with her or that she wasn’t good enough. I explained that I was just trying to help. She understood, but ask me to bring it down a notch. Agreed. Little did I know, she was feeling a lot more insecurities than I was aware of.

I had to find out from her teacher. 

Having been a teacher, I like to prepare for teacher conferences. I keep my kiddos worksheets and ask questions about whether they are performing well and what their dad and I can do to assist. However, I was not prepared for what I was about to hear. Mrs. Jennings, Reese’s first grade teacher, told me that Reese was doing an excellent work and that she was a delight to be around. What she wanted me to do at home was to build Reese’s self esteem.

“What?” I said dumbfounded.

“Reese constantly second guesses herself,” explained Mrs. Jennings. “She doesn’t realize that she is one in a million.”

I ended up crying in the conference. Not because I was full of joy over the compliment, but that someone else had to tell me how special my daughter was. You see, in all honesty, I don’t look for it. I don’t have time to. I am so busy trying to make sure that she knows her spelling words, or explaining how cleaning her room is an important responsibility. I’m giving her my two cents on soccer and singing in the choir. I want her to excel. When she tells me she had a good day at school, I say “that’s not the exception, that’s the norm. You’re doing what you’re supposed to.” I do the same thing to Jack. But he lets it go in one ear and out the other. I think Reese internalizes all of those comments as criticisms and believes she is not good enough.

It breaks my heart.  I would never hurt her.

She once compared me to Merida’s mom in the movie Brave.

“She fusses to much, kind of like you,” Reese would say.

“And kind of like me, Merida’s mom just wants what’s best for her.” I shrugged off.

I didn’t pay any attention then. Now, I realize she was right. I thought I was doing the right thing by pushing her, but it appears I was driving her spirits down instead of lifting them up. She knows how much I love her, right? I don’t have to keep telling her, do I? Yes.

I need to celebrate the many things that Reese is and not focus on the things that she isn’t. Because truth be told, I don’t care if she is the next Mia Hamm or not. I just want her to give her best at whatever she does. But she’s not Jack. My support may need to take the shape of motherly love rather than motivational speaker. She needs to know that I love her whether her room is clean or not, whether she scores a goal or not, whether she makes a perfect score on a test or not.

Some of Facebook friends and I are participating in a 30-day Mom Challenge: Mom’s Ultimate To-Do List. Each day, there is a mommy action item. But instead of doing laundry, it asks you to hug your children 3 times in a day or leave a sweet note for them. Until I started doing it, I didn’t realize how seldom I engaged in this type of activity with my kids. So, I am vowing from this day forward to be Reese’s mother and not her life coach.  I want her to know that she is special. She’s not Jack or Westley. She is my “sweet girl,” Reese….and she’s one in a million in my eyes too.