We mothers are fantastic at encouraging our children when they are struggling with their endeavors. We are dedicated purveyors of adages like “practice makes perfect.” I believe my children can do anything (within reason), and I will repeat this as many times as needed until they believe it, too.
When my nine-year-old, Penny, came to me with an in-progress drawing, discouraged because she couldn’t get the shading right, I reminded that we get better with practice. I gave her advice on ways to improve technique, then she said, “I will never draw as good as you!” I explained the reason I draw well is because I have had thirty-three years to work on it and I’ve practiced a lot, adding that you can’t use others’ abilities as a determination for your own. There will always be someone who is better and worse at something than you.
Recently I overheard my daughter and her seven year old brother, Yukon, having a conversation while drawing on a whiteboard together. Yukon lamented, “I wish I was as good at drawing as you!” and with the authority of a sage, Penny replied, “You shouldn’t compare yourself to me, you can only compare yourself to yourself.” A smug smile crossed my face as I congratulated myself on doing a good job at this mom thing.
When it comes to my writing, however, there is no smugness. Instead, I struggle with the very thing I so easily advised my daughter on as she doubted herself. I have to wonder why it’s so hard to take my own advice. I fully believe in what I told Penny that day, yet can’t seem to apply those beliefs to my own undertakings.
As a writer beginning my career what feels like a decade later than my peers, I battle with negative self-talk and feelings of inadequacy. I cower before the same demons that I swiftly exorcised for my daughter. The mother and the writer: suddenly incompatible parts. How can I tell my children that they can succeed through perseverance, while giving into my own feelings of defeat when the going gets tough? The answer is I can’t. For myself, and for my children, I must walk the talk.
I give my children the grace to make mistakes, get frustrated, and even throw a tantrum, so I can allow that for myself as well. But when flailing ceases and tears have dried, that isn’t the end of trying. I don’t let my children give up, settling for less than their capabilities, so I also can’t let myself. I know my kids have many talents and can be great. Their efforts will be rewarded. Now I need to extend the honor of that mode of thinking to myself. I have been practicing these skills with my little ones for almost a decade, so it’s time to make perfect by mothering myself, too.
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