everything is a performance

Why is it that everything kids do ends with a performance of some kind?

I  feel like we are creating a reality show at home every day, sans the cameras.

  • Weekly tennis lessons end in parent day where we clap and cheer that our child has learned what we paid to have them teach her.
  • Dance, good exercise and good fun, always requires a recital and forking over the fees for a sparkly costume.
  • I even catch myself encouraging my girl as she sings loudly to some pop song on the karaoke machine to keep singing and someday she might be on American Idol.

Since when did reality get to be so much like television?

And I’ve bought into it.  Bad.

Flipping through the registration catalog for winter offerings, I spend an hour comparing the family calendar and costs to see if I can fit in time for the art class, the six week long soccer foot skills clinic, and the lego club enrollment forms. Each notes a competitive event or parent night finale where the kids parade before adoring parents.

Sigh. What am I doing?

Not only does each activity have to fit in around homework and family time, but these events usually require parental presence, positive encouragement from the bleachers, spontaneous bursts of proud applause and the obligatory photo after completion.

Think back to a winter when you were eleven and dug out from under the basement stairs a pair of old skates, didn’t matter that they were two sizes too big, and you walked to the house next door to perform an ice skating show for the neighbor?

Never happened.

You know how it really went.  We put on our skates and shoveled the snow off the pond just so that we could be outside and feel the graceful gliding power of our blades…okay, until the weed sticking out tripped us up, true.

But the point is, we taught ourselves to skate because we didn’t want to sit around the house and be bored. Outside we went- where no one was clapping for us at each turn – and if we fell, we laughed and we picked ourselves up and we skated some more. We left when our friends were called home to dinner not when the instructor released us to our parents for a small reception with cookies in the lobby.

And we loved it!

We skated to learn not to earn anything but for the self-centered satisfaction of doing something as well as we could before our toes and fingers froze.

I’m sad to think that all the awards showered upon our kids by coaches and yes, from this mom, are making my kids people pleasers more than a proud persons.

Instead I should have stuck with the Yaay Me approach.

Some wise mom in a playgroup mentioned that kids should not be taught to do things to make parents proud.  She suggested that they don’t need to be constantly seeking approval from others.

I took her advice and started to teach my first born that she should reach around and pat herself on the back and say, “Yayy me ” after she had made a drawing or created a neat tower of blocks.  Yes,  she still wanted me to look at her creations,  but instead of filling her head with, “You are the next Michelangelo,” I smiled and encouraged her to applaud herself.

And this became her habit.

It created real confidence.  She believed herself more than she would ever believe me. Okay an audience of a thousand clapping parents might have made a difference, but then, where would the audience be when she needs it for important things like saying no to poor choices or speaking her truth when she is called on for an opinion…the audience of one is the only one who will be there.  I cannot be skating with her on every pond. I cannot be sweeping the pond and keeping her from tripping up.  I cannot always be there.

### by Child Grower A. Woz

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