Mirror Image

I think that every parent wants their child to have the best of their qualities.  When our child shows off what we think is our best qualities, e.g. athletic, thoughtfulness, caring, dimples, curly hair, we are the first to say that “My child got that from me or he/she got that from my side of the family”.  But what if your child show qualities that you think are the worse of you e.g. shyness, clumsiness, passiveness, freckles, or that funny shaped nose, as a parent, you hope they don’t inherit what you consider your flawed traits.

Growing up I felt like I was awkward.  I was shy and quiet.  I felt weird or should I say different than all the other kids.  I wasn’t properly socialized as a kid and it took me years to break out of my shell somewhat so I don’t seem weird.  But sometimes I slip up and say something “weird” and I wonder if the person I’m talking to thought what I said was weird too.  I was never good at introducing myself to other kids and when I thought that they weren’t interested in playing with me, I would go and play by myself.  I remember I was at the park with my mother, little sister, and my late great grandmother.  There were some girls in the park playing Double Dutch.  I didn’t feel comfortable playing with them so I try to learn how to ride my bike at the time.  In my post “If a bird can’t fly” I said I never learned to ride a bike.  I don’t know how to ride a bike. I owned a bike but never really got the chance to use it enough to learn how. I remember my great-grandmother tell me, “Get back over there and play with the other kids.” I wasn’t comfort socializing because I didn’t know how and I think she wanted to break me out of it. I saw these same traits in my oldest son and fear that he would be like me in that he is cautious and not outright outgoing.

I took my two sons to the park a few days ago.  I notice when there are a few kids playing at the park, my oldest son is open and ready to climb bars, swing on the swings, and slide down a slide and play with other kids.  He seems fearless.  But when the park is crowd and kids are running like crazy and climb here and jumping there, he slows he’s pace, picks his top lip, and cautiously walk over to the slides. It’s like he starts to close up emotionally and mentally. He would climb the stairs to get to the big slide but as soon as a herd of kids coming behind him, he freezes or he moves out of their way so the other kids can go on the slides.  He would wait until all the kids go down before he attempts to go.  This can go on for five minutes because these same kids will climb back up and slide down two to three more times.  I call up to him, “Its ok you can go down” or if he’s blocking the way of the other kids “Either go down or move out the way.  Don’t hold up the slide.”  I could see the uncomfortableness and confusion in his face; the same confused and uncomfortable look and feeling that I had as a child. It’s like a nervousness of being around other children. Then I get nervous and try to remove him from the situation by telling him to come down.  Sometimes, I would jwatch and see how he would react before I say anything to him to see if he would “snap out of it”.  Eventually after about thirty minutes at the park, he would start to get his grove but he’s still cautious which I guess it’s good considering that there is a herd of kids coming up behind them.  I noticed sometimes the older kids can see that he is nervous and would help him by pushing him along or telling him to “go, go, go” in a nice way.  Before he turned one years old, I tired to get him out to play dates so he can develop social skills.  I wonder if I should have started when he was much younger.

I’m trying to let him be who he is.  If he is cautious and need time to warm up in a crowd, so be it.  But I can’t help to revisit the feelings I had as a child, that mirror image of the weird awkward kid.  I want to give him every opportunity to socialize so he won’t be the weird kid. But I don’t want to force to be someone he’s not.  I want him to feel good about himself. I catch myself telling him to not be afraid of the other kids, to just go down the slide and keep it moving as if I’m giving the advice to the younger version of myself. I don’t if I should say anything because that might make him more nervous. I have to see that there’s nothing wrong with him and however he responses to a situation is the most comfortable for him at that moment.  At the end of the day, this isn’t about him…it’s about me and when it’s about me, I’m not allowing my son to be himself. 

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