Recently I was able to go to Parent/Teacher conferences for all my school-aged children. It is amazing how much anxiety I had before hand. I had already met all my kids teachers before school started. Most of them I have spoken to on the phone before the conferences about one thing or another. And for the most part, I like them. One of the teachers isn't my favorite, but it will be a good experience for my child to learn how to negotiate a relationship with a different personality.
The kids are all doing really well and it is always nice to hear someone gush over your child because that really is what it felt like, aside from the one teacher I already mentioned, but it was a good report none the less. I know a few things I need to work on, like calling their former school and seeing what the deal is and why they haven't sent their records yet?! We need to work on flexibility (of schedule, not body, though I am sure some bodies need some flexibility training as well.)
What I was most caught off guard by was a comment the Kindergarten teacher said. It simultaneously invoked pride and broke my heart. "Your daughter is not afraid to speak her mind and let people know what she wants. That is really good, for a girl." The "for a girl" part was not in a taunting way like one might say about the way a girl hits or throws, it was with awe, like other girls don't speak-up for themselves. The pride and joy came from knowing I was teaching my child to have a voice for herself. But at that same moment I became choked-up, realizing there was a classroom full of little girls potentially being trained at home to keep quiet and go with the flow; to give the appearance of being cute and kind, maybe at the sacrifice of their opinion and voice, perhaps like a doll.
Here's my question, why can't it be both. I admit, I may not be the best example. Honestly, it wasn't much of a surprise to me that my child was not the submissive one in the corner with a zipped lip. (Well, maybe a little, this is my shy child. But apparently she has gotten comfortable with her teacher and classmates.) I am not one to sit passively by and watch my surroundings. I call it passionate, others may call it annoying or embarrassing. I don't mind having discussions, even heated ones, as long as they don't get nasty, or ugly. I like hearing others opinions and trying to understand where they are coming from. Maybe it comes from a desire to always seek the truth; what if my opinion is wrong, I have a right to change it. This may include something I do not feel is correct. I will speak-up for myself and those around me. Very rarely does it end on a sour note. I guess my kids have been watching. I suppose this doesn't always lend itself to being a "doll."
Or maybe I don't want both. Maybe what I want to teach my daughter is self-respect. Speak-up for yourself, don't let people take advantage of you. Know when you are wrong and apologize. Be humble. Advocate for yourself and others. Be in control of yourself. These are all things I am still learning, and will be for the rest of my life. Being cute many not be all it's cracked-up to be. I don't want to teach my daughter they are valuable because they are cute or pretty. I want them to see they are valuable because they know who they are and aren't afraid to show others and that is what makes them beautiful.
This was a lesson I learned from my mom. When I was in second grade my parents went to a parent/teacher conference. My second grade teacher told my parent that I was doing fine in school, my only problem was I talked too much. She told my parents they needed to talk to me about self control. And about how I would be a much better student and young girl if I wasn't so talkative. Or something to that nature. Well, my mom being the strong talkative woman she was said "No!" She told my teacher there are far too many girls in this world that do not use their voice for good and speak-up for themselves. They stay silent. I am not about to tell my daughter to become one of them. Now, I am sure she did talk to me about speaking out of turn and not distracting others from their tasks, but she encouraged me to explore and learn what I wanted. To ask questions and not be afraid to give answers.
When does self-doubt creep into a person? Is it when a College professor asks if you are actually Graduate School Material? I really questioned my own intelligence for several days. Is it when as a teenage volunteer you are publicly chastised for doing what you were asked to do, but apparently the person didn't realize what that entailed on their part? This event actually caused me to give-up my hobby. Is it when you relay your abuse to a friend and they choose not to believe you because the abuser "would never do that."? I questioned my own integrity since a close friend would not believe me. Is it when as a child asks a question and the teacher mocks the student in front of the entire class, leading to ruckus laughter at the child's expense? It sure made me think twice about asking another question in my 5th grade class. How about when a 3rd grade teacher gives end of the year "awards" to each student, sometimes labeling a child in unkind terms? I still feel the sting of that label and get a little sensitive when the word is used and often question all the words that come out of my mouth wen in a leadership role. Or a man on an airplane preemptively scolds a 3 year old on a Trans-Atlantic flight? I tried not to move a muscle the entire flight. Luckily I was able to sleep a good portion of it.
I think self-doubt is a life long battle. There are still times in my life today that I face self-doubt, but somewhere along the line my self-confidence took a stronghold within me and has not let go. I was fortunate and lucky. I want self-confidence for all my children. I worry the world will tell my daughters it isn't something desirable.
I know my daughters are blessed to live in a country that allows them to have freedom to make choices and access to education. I want them to take full advantage of it. I want them to learn that their thoughts and opinions are just as valuable as the thought of the boy sitting next to them. I want to encourage my children to speak-up for themselves and for those that need help beside them. I want them to share their opinions kindly with tolerance for others.
All this ran through my head while I sat there for the parent/teacher conference. I think I missed some of what was said about which sight words we need to work on more, but I'm not sure it matters. We'll get the sight words down. How do you make a home lesson plan for keeping self-confidence. I guess for now I let my kids talk. I let them share their opinions and see that each one of them can have an opinion and none of them are better than anyone else's. Now how do I listen to all these opinions at once without getting a headache?
All joking aside, for a little bit, I think it is equally important to teach your child to listen. They need to listen to not only other's thoughts and opinions, but also their own. They need to ask themselves if it sounds logical and reasonable. They need to learn to ponder and think things out in their mind, trust me, it leads to far fewer foot in mouth moments. Far less anger. Far fewer hurt feelings. Listening to yourself also allows you to value yourself and validate that you are worth the time. And with my children it comes with the added bonus that this Mom named Luna gets some quiet to ponder some thoughts of her own!