“My daughter is crazy.”
Could she really have just said what I think she said?
“I mean, she really is crazy and she drives me crazy.”
Sitting at a nursery PTA meeting one doesn’t expect to hear such a harsh complaint lodged against a three year old. What could a child do to cause her own mother to label her as “crazy”?
“What makes you say that?” I probed
She grimaced. “Oh, because she just is. I ask Rachel every day what she wants in her sandwich and I make it just as she likes, but she never eats more than one bite.”
Hmmmm, I pondered, such a crime could deem a child crazy?
A few minutes later I heard an exchange between this same mother and the teacher. Apparently little Rachel had returned home that day with a marker in her bag, after explaining to the teacher that it was really hers from home, despite its strong resemblance to the nursery’s markers.
“Oy, what a liar my little girl is.”
Did she just say liar? I stared at her in complete shock. This horribly negative term hardly fit sweet little Rachel whom my daughter loved to play with.
I kept quiet, but the next time that Rachel’s mother called her daughter crazy I couldn’t hold myself back. I firmly but kindly stated, “Rachel is not crazy and you really should be careful. If you keep saying she's crazy, you're going to believe it and even worse, so will she.”
As long as I can remember, my mother has been my biggest fan.
My reprimand elicited no reaction, but at least I could not blame myself for silent approval of her name-calling.
In contrast, I envisioned my own mother, warm and encouraging. As long as I can remember, she has been my biggest fan.
“How artistic of you!” was the encouragement I was rewarded as a five year old after using four bottles of food coloring to tie-dye a box worth of tissues.
“You are officially hired as the house chef!” she announced when, at eight years old, I scrambled eggs and toasted leftover challah for the whole family.
“It’s more fun to spend time with you,” my mother said when, as a teenager, I asked her why she did not want to attend the luncheon she had been invited to.
Her gushes of supportive praise have given me the courage to think out of the box and the courage to step up to positions of leadership.
There are enough people out there that have negativity pouring out of them. Students have to face up to standardized tests and being compared to the “smart” kids, the “organized” kids, the “good listeners.” Children in the playground will always be there to poke fun at their clothes and call them names. From such a young age, children have to deal with fitting in to social networks despite being too short, too tall, too heavy or too scrawny. A parent’s job is to shower a child with so much positivity in order to shield them from all of the other stuff. The chill and skepticism that a child may encounter must be outweighed by the warmth and faith of his parents.
Every child has his challenges. Sometimes a toddler has a hard time sharing her toys or putting on her own shoes. Sometimes an eight year old boy feels that he just can’t stop wetting his bed or that he will never hit a homerun. Sometimes a teenager doesn’t believe that she has the leadership skills to be a counselor in a big sister/little sister program.
And sometimes it's the parent standing on the sidelines cheering, “I believe in you! There is no one like you!” that gives the child the needed encouragement to step out of his comfort zone and try a bit harder. Parents, grab those pom-poms! You are your child’s greatest cheerleader.