If there is one thing I want to make sure my kids get from me it is the gift of confidence. Not because I have it, actually I don't and it took a lot to even put that out there, but because I believe that giving that to them will help them not to hold back and go at life as if it is theirs for the molding.
I believe most kids are born confident. It goes well with their curiosity, a toddler or young child knows no limits, no boundaries which can be frightening and exhausting as parents to watch but it is here that we as parents can teach caution or we can teach fear. This parenting stuff is exhausting and totally amazing.
My older son and I love watching a show called "This is Us" and if you have not seen it I recommend it for those of you who like intelligent dramas that are entertaining. The acting is really good, the plot realistic enough and most of all it shows us that being part of a family is great and painful and horrible and wonderful and a work in progress. One of the things he and I both picked up on is that of the 3 main characters, who are siblings, they have varying degrees of confidence yet they often appear to be totally kick ass confident. The one sibling who has it the most appears to the be one that after much self-reflection and brutally honest conversations with his brother acknowledged he did get some favoritism, maybe because he is the adopted one, or maybe because he had so much in him that he learned to never fully let it go.
Watching this show went well with a recent conversation I had about how fear has held me back so often. For those people who know me it often garners a reaction of "You ? I think you are so confident" but from my very close friends who have threatened me with physical violence and big giant hugs and support because they understand that it is not confidence that is what most see but rather a really big, extroverted, love the world personality. I am a person who embraces my curious and inquisitive nature and that may be some confidence in knowing that I can ask but there is a battle that rages within me to not let the "why don't you know that" or other things the negative commenter that lives in me take over.
This lack of confidence is something that I have been working on, and as I approach 50 I am planning on kick some of the doubt's ass. I have gotten more confident with age but it still is not where I would like to be, am on the road just not at the destination.
It is the small things that we often can do as parents that diminish our children's confidence and it is something I actively work on not to do and to own up to if I do it with my own kids. The small way that we never give a child a break when they are learning a new sport or hobby because we want them to be perfect and not to suffer at all when they are in public with this activity. Maybe it is the "great job but" followed by asking for more of them. It is when we kindly tell a child to eat better because it is not good to be overweight. That moment when they do something so ridiculous that we shout "what is wrong with you". If you are not guilty of any of these well then you are a lot better than almost everyone I know and I know some amazing people who excel at parenting.
We do not do any of those things, unless there is a psychologically abusive situation, because we are bad people or even mean parents. We do them because we have been exposed to negative reinforcement in our own lives. For some it was even a driver - to prove that parent wrong, to throw it in their face, to get their attention. For others it was glue, held you in place because you were going to prove them right and then some by failing or being mediocre.
There are so many things I would have done differently in my mind but in reality I would probably not change any of them because they are all part of the fabric that makes me who I am. I am just trying to teach my kids confidence. Confidence to know that there is no recipe for success unless they are part of writing it. Confidence to not take a job only because of the pay but to love what they do or use the job that is just for pay to fund the life they love. Confidence to go for it in love and ask for more and expect the world because that is what they will give to their future partners. Confidence to not be grateful for settling for "just good enough" because you do not want to be told that is all you deserve or less.
I do this and I fail at times and succeed at others. The world is really good at telling us what we cannot do, how we failed, and tearing us down but that is mostly if we let it. The world is really good at being awed by those with confidence. This year I am looking to give my kids the gift of confidence by praising them, by making them feel safe to trust me with anything and expect that even when I do not agree with something it will be in their best interest. I want my kids to be proud and excited and excel and that comes from celebrating their success and building on their unique talents.
Confidence .. yeah it will be the gift that keeps on giving.