Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Teach Your Parents Well

One morning this week, Jack’s hair dried in a wind-swept fashion that gave him a real mod look. Like a stage mom, I ran to fetch the gel to enhance the style. As I was tugging on the pointed wisps that fanned out against his cheek, Jack asked, “Why are you putting gel in my hair?”

Me: Because your hair looks very cool today. You look like Zac Efron.

Jack: Everyone has that look at school.

Me: I know, and it looks really cute on you.

Jack: Ya, but I don’t want to look like everybody else. I want to look like me. Don’t you want me to look like myself?

Me: Of course I do.

I stopped the primping and felt a lump in my throat. Since he was a toddler, my husband and I have been talking the talk:

“Be true to yourself.”
“Stand up for what you believe in even if it’s not popular.”
“Be an individual.”
“Listen to your own voice.”

There I was trying to bend him into the mold. And it wasn’t the first time.

Up until this year, I picked out his clothes every morning. I thought the horror of mismatched clothes would be perceived by school personnel as neglectful parenting.

One day he said, “I don’t like the clothes you pick for me. You always try to make me look fancy.”

Me: Fancy?

Jack: Ya. I want to wear t-shirts, not polo shirts. Just plain t-shirts. Is that okay?

What was I doing? Why was I robbing him of the opportunity to be himself?

When I was growing up, I perceived the world as a tunnel of thorns. Everything was personal. I realize now, most of it wasn't.

Jack, on the other hand, has comment repellent built into his skin. One day, some boys called out to him from a tree they were climbing.

“Hey Retard!”

Jack looked up.

“Ya, you, Retard!”

Jack: Ha! That is funny! [started laughing]

Boys: We’re talking about YOU!

Jack: I know. You are really funny! [continued to laugh]

Unable to bother to him, they moved on to taunt other kids.

When I picked him up, he recounted the story. I was ready to hug him and wipe his tears. But his voice was normal -- upbeat and unshaken.

Me: Why didn’t it bother you that they said that to you?

Jack: Because that’s what they think. It’s not what I think about myself.

These are the moments when the paradigm shifts. I realize I am the student and one of my greatest teachers is sitting right next to me in the front seat.


Kimberly Zook said...

Wow! Really, wow! Your son is truly remarkable and it definitely shows what amazing parents he has, too. His thoughts and actions are what many parents hope for in their children, because it reflects an inner strength in the child that we so desperately want to protect. From the day I gave birth to my daughter she's been teaching me many things that I never knew or had different ideas or plans for. Children make great teachers!

San Diego Writer Girl said...

Thank you, Kimberly. I am so blown away by some of the things he says, I feel compelled to write about them. It's just not how most kids think. My daughter is more like me -- feels the world too deeply. Jack is very unique and I keep learning from him. Thank you for being one of my readers. I appreciate that so much.

Darren King said...

Great piece. My wife always says the traits that our children exhibit that, as parents, can make them difficult to parent are in fact the traits we want them to have when they are adults - a strong sense of self, opinionated, independent, leader...I like your politics, your blog, your writing...thanks for sharing. Best, Darren King

Rae Ann said...

Wow. I think you son is more evolved than I am. Good for you for fostering such a solid self esteem.

San Diego Writer Girl said...


I am truly flattered and grateful for what you said. Thank you so much! That made my day. I agree with your wife. Both my kids are strong-minded and opinionated -- which makes some of the simple tasks in life not so simple, but hopefully knowing who they are and what they want will serve them well as adults. Thank you for reading!

San Diego Writer Girl said...

Rae Ann,

I think Jack is more evolved than me as well! I still crumble over other people's opinions, however, not as much as I did when I was younger. Getting older has that advantage for sure! Thanks for stopping by.

I am Harriet said...

That's great!
Good for your son.

Deb said...

What great self-esteem your son has! I love that you are wise enough to see his wisdom.

QueenOfRelationships said...

Wow. This is awesome. I can only hope that my son has a self-esteem like this when he grows up. Hey, we are usually a product of our parents! :)

San Diego Writer Girl said...

Harriet, Deb, Queen,

Thank you! I am so humbled by your words.

Anonymous said...

Congratulations to him. He's amazing. I love this.

frootbat31 said...

Big Kudos to you and your mothering skills! You've managed to instill the very thing that so many adults seem to lack and that is self confidence. WELL DONE!
I hope to be like you when I grow up.