Parenting Blog

The At-Home Dad Chronicles: The Self-Esteem Struggles Of A Bright Child

Her story mirrors ours.

Things, you could say if you weren’t even the least bit superstitious [salt over shoulder, knocks on wood, fingers crossed], have been too easy.  Parenting life here has been paved with chocolate mousse; divine and delicious, smooth and sweet.

Being mama and papa to The Bear has been a dream, from a ridiculously easy pregnancy (for me especially, but the Mrs. too will confirm if asked) through today, but this parenting thing we’ve gotten ourselves deep into after 8 1/2 years is getting harder and more delicate than ever before. It had to happen eventually, I guess.  For the first time in her young life, the Bear finds herself lagging behind academically, and ‘well’ doesn’t answer the “how’s she taking it?” question.

If difficulty is the PB, then self-doubt is certainly the J in this shit sandwich.

3rd grade is, as it should be by all rights, more challenging than its predecessor.  The homework is more involved and time consuming, and the in-school schedule is packed tighter than a can of tuna (dolphin safe, of course.)  Her 8-hour school day demands more focus and stamina than she’s had to dedicate to anything, this is especially true during her twice daily, AP-ish Language Arts and Math classes. Therein lies the genesis of her new problem. In her school, ‘leveling’ begins in 3rd grade. It is a good thing, for sure, to group children of like ability in the subjects of language arts and math, and teach to a more focused point instead of a spectrum.  She has landed in the top level of both and, while she loves and is proud of that fact, she doesn’t always find the pace and the workload pleasurable. The curse of being bright. SO glad I never had to deal with that.

When I tell my bright-as-the-noon-time-sun daughter that it is exactly how we handle adversity that matters most — the thing that will shape our character and eventually define us — I am speaking both to her and to myself. Frederick Douglas’ quote, the words that rattle between my ears whenever calamity strikes, have never seemed more potent in family life: “Without struggle there can be no progress.”  Overcoming oppression, we are not, but still, the pathos of the abolitionist’s statement stands.

The Bear is going to come through this academic speed bump as an even better student and a more confident person, I can see her adjusting and rising to the challenge already, and I will become a more nimble father who can guide, advise, inspire, and support with more grace and less hiccups.  And by hiccups I mean teeth-sucking, eye-rolling, and deep sighing, all subtle actions that, in her mind, exhibit a father’s disappointment that crushes her like a Yugo beneath a monster truck.  I am not disappointed in her, ever ever ever, I am just an asshole who doesn’t always know how to communicate properly to a highly-sensitive little girl.  Or to anyone, really.

Here’s the rub.  I’m not 100% for certain that she suffers from self-doubt or low self-esteem at all.  She is snarky, has an attitude (NO idea how she inherited that personality trait [ cough cough ]), and knows she knows her shit.  How do I know?  A yellow brick road to brilliant town paved with so many “Seriously?” retorts to any questioning on matters of math, science, and on and on.  She is offended by the inference to any lack of knowledge on her part and lets us know without hesitation — not the way someone with self-doubt responds, I reckon.  Others may recoil, but I dig that ‘tude in her.  It isn’t arrogance, not quite.  It shows strength, I think, and I welcome it from both my girls.

Her reality likely lies somewhere in the middle of the dining room table frustration and back of the car “Seriously?”  Ain’t that always the way?  It is too soon to tell, but she, like me, is probably a walking paradox, a poorly mixed confidence & doubt stew that, depending on the spoonful, could come across too strong or too weak or just right. Even at 36, I’m still stirring myself together to better incorporate the ingredients.  Maybe all Bear really needs is a strong wooden spoon and some elbow grease.  Seriously.

Tags: , , ,

Comments are closed.

Wordpress Social Share Plugin powered by Ultimatelysocial