My daughter and I went ice skating last week. After a few shaky times around the rink, she got into a zone and didn’t want me anywhere near her. “I got it mommy, I got it,” she said. I’m pretty used to that by now, so obliged and stayed a few feet behind her. Once more around and I noticed that she seemed to hop every few feet or so. First, I thought she was just trying not to fall because her arms were out to the side. Then I realized what she was doing—she was trying to do a JUMP! “Did you see me, mommy?! Did you see my jump?!” After going ice skating a handful of times, she is confident enough to attempt a jump?! Maybe a little too confident.
Little Miss Independent thinks she is the best singer, reader, swimmer, dancer, roller coaster rider and now I can add ice skater to the list. Before she gets in the pool, we have to have a conversation about her staying away from the deep in and the diving board. “But mom, trust me, I can do it,” she says. When we watch American Idol or X Factor auditions I hear, “If they heard me sing, I would go all the way!” “Who’s the best reader in your class,” I ask. She proudly answers, “I am!”
Don’t get me wrong—I’m not complaining. As I help Journey form her self-identity, I’ve done my best to encourage her to do her best at everything and to believe that she can do anything. She is extremely outgoing, fiercely independent, and quite the conversationalist. She’s had a few challenges with body image (read Challenging Unrealistic Images of Beauty), but we are working on it. The last thing I want to do is tell her she can’t do something.
But as she gets older that fearless attitude can be dangerous. What if she goes in the deep end and can’t swim back? What if next time she tries to do a spin on the ice and hits her head or breaks a leg? I’m having a hard time trying to figure out how to strike the balance between encouraging her and keeping her grounded in reality. I don’t want to be the parent at the American Idol auditions encouraging my child as she heads in to see the judges knowing damn well that she can’t sing (read When Keeping It Real Goes Wrong). But I also don’t want to be the parent always pointing out her limitations.
Maybe the best course of action is no action at all. Maybe it’s best to let her fearless attitude soar. Maybe my role is to support her through achievements and disappointments that will naturally reveal her true strengths and weaknesses. Or maybe I’ll be one of those parents at American Idol after all—with the rest of the parents and a better understanding of how we got there.