When I was a kid, I often recall my father telling me that certain things would toughen my constitution. Usually it was stuff that I felt required me to suffer — for example, keeping the thermostat on low, shoveling snow, wiping away the tears and brushing off a skinned knee. I was a sensitive kid, and, hate to admit it, but I’m also a sensitive adult. He was sensitive, but not overly sensitive. I mean, he was a nice guy, but he was not a whiner. I see a lot of my dad in my older brother. And I’m pretty sure that my older brother would classify me as a whiner.
It’s something I’m not proud of, being sensitive. And I’m emotional, a little nervous. But I’ve never wanted to be. I’ve always wanted to have an edge, be braver, and be blessed with stick-to-itiveness. I credit my Dad and my older brother for giving me what little resilience to uncomfortable situations I do have.
So of course, being a pretty typical mother, through the rearing of my child, I want to address all of the qualities about myself that I feel are flaws. You know, I just want my kid to be the perfect version of me. Not a tall order, right? So no reason to be discouraged when I can’t mold a little person into a flawless human, right?
My daughter will not have the luxury of an older brother practicing wrestling moves on her, knocking the wind out of her, or tricking her into putting 9 volt batteries on her tongue. So, although I may use different methods for toughening her up, I still think it’s important that she learn to push through and be stronger.
And so sometimes I feel like I am a little rough on my Bean. Sometimes I feel slightly guilty about not scooping her into my arms and addressing her every-little-boo-boo (especially when people are watching). But I know that I pay her bumps and bruises the attention they require when I need to. So when she takes a spill in the woods, gets nervous climbing up a little rock scramble, or her legs get tired on the soccer field, I insist that she take a deep breath, get up, and shake it off.
I know that exercise and physical activity have gifted me with more confidence and grit than most anything else has. It has taught me to set goals, keep focus, and overcome the little voice that used to discourage me from jumping in and trying something for fear of failure.
So now when she says, “I can’t do it!”, my daughter more frequently stops and thinks about whether or not she might be able to. Or even better, she might be willing to at least try whatever it is that might initially seem overwhelming or scary. She’s slowly learning to encourage herself … and in doing so, feeds her spirit and believes in herself a little more each time.
In many ways, this has been a learning experience for both of us. I love my sensitive little girl with all of my heart, and it totally warms me when she insists that she needs me in order to accomplish something — but although slightly painful, watching her be brave and grow wings has been just as rewarding.
2 thoughts on “Toughening Up”
Such a tough balance but it sounds like you’re doing amazing. I know you are.
It is such a precious balance, isn’t it? The world is hard and we must raise children who can thrive in spite of it, but also, I want my children to be able to bring some softness and sensitivity into a world that can be much too hard.