The kid is in her first week of a long camp this week. It is full of things she’s never done before. On the Monday she came home excited. On Tuesday she seemed fine when I picked her up. And then on Tuesday night she started thinking all the negative things she could possibly thing.
It’s because there are things that are hard. Things she’s never done before that she can’t do easily.
We try to explain to her that everything she has ever done has been difficult at the beginning, that she’s there to learn, that we hope she tries to have fun and just let the process happen. But it is so frustrating, because she just shuts down, she thinks only of the bad and never the good, she shows no optimism…
And she’s exactly like me.
What could I have done if I hadn’t always been so scared of embarrassing myself? Or just of not being instantly good at something. What about all the things I have failed to practice. What I wouldn’t give now to have taken some of those leaps.
I explained to her that as an adult I am now pushing myself to get past that fear that I felt when I was her age so that I can try – even if I fail, at least I know the answer. I have spent so many years wondering and what-if-ing that I need to know. I need to DO.
I can’t ask myself why I gave up sketching as a kid, I have to accept that I did, and now I have to re-learn some things if sketching is something I want to do. I have to stop asking myself why I never read this or that book before, because I will now, if I still want to.
I also allowed myself to give up a few books – “classics” – because I can also allow myself to quit on things I know I don’t want to do. I don’t have to read Wuthering Heights. There’s no test. I can get along with only having seen the BBC miniseries version of Pride and Prejudice without apologizing to anyone.
Because as I approach 40, I also have no fear of reprisal for such things.
When my daughter was young I put her in a whole whack of classes. I wanted her to try a bunch of things and decide what she then wanted to continue doing. (The answer was gymnastics, until recently).
I can now apply the same philosophy to myself. I can take a class, find something on YouTube, follow a board on Pinterest and try, and then decide what I like or don’t. I don’t owe anyone anything, this is about me.
When and if my kid comes to the same conclusion remains to be seen.
I firmly believe that by the end of this camp, a few weeks from now, she will have little memory of how hard it was at the start. She will have her steps down and she will forget the effort that she put in. She’s already forgotten how long she worked to get across the monkey bars the first time – before she could do her ninja warrior moves – and how hard she tried to get her back walkover perfected.
And thus, the next hard thing will frustrate her just as much. The cycle continues.