Sunday, February 01, 2009


This parenting thing never gets easier does it? At one point in time, all I had to do was ensure they were clean and fed, through a foggy haze of sleep deprivation. Now I am dealing with this self-esteem thing. My theory is this - first you have to feel good in your own skin before you can start to admit that the whole business of self definition is an elaborate form of storytelling. I suppose I was a little naive to think that encouragement, praising achievements big and small, and helping the kids experience the ramifications of their follies would be enough. Guess what... its NOT. Shit.

So, Harry has been going through a period of self-loathing. He's a bit impatient. He knows perfection and wants it immediately. He knows what he wants to draw, and if he can't do it on the first attempt, he gets mad at himself. I've heard him call himself stupid. Explaining practice is important, and emphasizing that the process is more important, and often more fun than the product, is not quite sinking in. Last week, after becoming frustrated to tears that he could not remember his multiplication tables, we had a little chat. The regular script I pull out, you know about trying your best, you can do it! Yadda Yadda, just was not working. It had no meaning. And I can appreciate why.

So I decided to tackle the self-loathing thing. Oh self-loathing is an old friend of mine. We know each other well. Once I really started to work with this notion, that "I" am a story I tell to myself, and more importantly, I control that story, things really began making sense to me. This is where the fun began really. Too bad I waited thirty years to find out, but I digress.

So I explained to him that he needed to start making friends with himself. I asked him if he would get angry and frustrated at his friend if they made a mistake in their math. Of course, not. Then why do you do it to yourself? After a bit of chat, I think it started to sink in.

I wish it were as perfect as what they tell us on television. I mean, if this were an episode, then lesson learned! I could brush my hands and look forward to the next season.

Wait until he finds out that his self identity is an elaborate piece of storytelling. Until then, its time to focus on compassion.


Hotboy said...

Takes me back to places ... glad I'm out of that emotional whirlwind. Hotboy

Katherine said...

I think storytelling is a brilliant way to create self-esteem partly because it's a non-threatening way to get (and keep) kids talking. We're not quite at that stage yet - still telling stories about Thomas the Tank Engine - but no doubt we will soon be. Thanks for a thoughtful post, and a thoughtful comment over on twinutero!