To some degree or another, we all have a need to be accepted. Whether it’s by friends, family, colleagues and even random strangers – like when I’ve just “been me” while saying something so asinine and I feel like I’ve instantly been blacklisted as they look at me like (a) I’m from another planet or (b) I’ve been living in complete isolation having only a volleyball named “Wilson” as a companion. While I’ve always known that I fall more on the side of the spectrum that craves acceptance (I write a blog for goodness sake), I didn’t realize just how much until the other night. My 8.5 year old, who, after a full day with his BFF, came home telling me all about this thing he discovered called, “Siri”…
8.5 Year Old: Mom, we were talking to Siri! It was awesome.
Me: *Great. Now he’s totally going to hijack my phone and get me into all sorts of trouble…* Oh ya…what did you think? Not that exciting huh? I just ask Siri about restaurants or the latest movies or where the closest gas station is in an emergency.
8.5 Year Old: Ummm…ok. We asked it to show us the biggest butt!
8.5 Year Old: *In hysterics* Ya! Ya! The biggest butt!! At first Siri didn’t know what I was saying but then it showed me a picture of the person with a HUUUUUUUUUGE butt!!
He then proceeded to “demonstrate” this new skill on my phone. After the hysterics, and obviously not amused by Siri’s sterile demeanour, my son ended his torture of my iPhone 5 with the following statement, “Siri, you suck.” and Siri replied, “That doesn’t sound good” and “I’m just trying to help you.” Poor Siri. All I could think was, OMG!!! Now Siri is not going to like me. Now she won’t help me with reservations, recommendations and witty remarks! Wait a second…WHAT AM I THINKING???!! And that’s when I realized just how deeply we (I) sometimes need to feel accepted…
Recently when I picked up my son from school he told me that someone made him cry that day. He had been excluded and was feeling unsure of himself – I was amazed at how quickly he linked not being picked to play at recess, to who he is as a person. Akin to having to speak to your children about the birds and the bees, storks, Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny, having to talk about self-esteem is right up there for me…where does one begin?
Perhaps one of the hardest things to face is when your child or any child comes to you distraught over being made to feel that they aren’t good enough, that they don’t fit in or that they’re simply, unwanted. I can’t help but internalize their sorrow and their feelings of insecurity and inferiority; all I want to do is take away the angst and remind them that they are strong, smart, capable and good people. Somehow, though, it’s not the same as when it comes from their peers…
I was brought up to feel like I was special, important, and strong. My parents gave me a lot of room to use my voice and demonstrate my talents and capabilities. While I’ve tried to do the same for my boys, in this fast paced world of too much homework, actual work, extra-curriculars and social media I wonder if I’m doing a good job. Some call it helicopter parenting – when a parent is there to solve all of their kids problems (in a nutshell) and basically tries to shield them from any pain or loss: “there’s no winner here…you both tied! Hooray!” I feel like I can fall into that trap very easily. It doesn’t help when you’re as big a control freak like me!
Other times, I like to just let them sort things out for themselves; I’m more of a bystander. But then the control freak side of me wonders if they’ll come out learning those important lessons…and whether they’ll destroy our house in the process.
Not any closer to knowing what to say or how to handle this particular situation, I decided I needed more information.
Me: So tell me what happened. What’s this about someone making you cry?
8.5 year old: I feel terrible. I wanted to play but they told me I can’t. I didn’t know what to do…why won’t they play with me?
Now 5 year old: I would hit them.
Me and 8.5 year old: You can’t do that.
Now 5 year old: Then I would punch them.
Me and 8.5 year old: You can’t do that!
Now 5 year old: Hmmm…(thinking)…then I would kick them and tell them they’re stupid.
Me and 8.5 year old: Nooooo!!!
Was the Now 5 year old onto something? Is it right to fight fire with fire? Have we become too sterile, too methodical and too considerate?
When I felt bullied or excluded while I was on Bay Street I would simply run to the third washroom stall so that no one would see me “get emotional” – there’s no crying in finance. But that can’t be the right strategy! Somehow we get through these awkward years – hopefully unscathed and better prepared for hard times in our futures…but how?
I decided to focus on building his self-confidence and remind him that the buck stops with us – we cannot control how other people will behave, all we can do is focus on how we will behave. You can’t force someone to like you or to play with you, and while it’s important to stand up for yourself, remember that you still have to face those same people the next day so stand up for yourself without tearing someone else down. So while it’s important to have compassion and empathy, to be diplomatic and considerate, it’s just as important to know your worth and your value.
I reassured my son that sometimes these things happen. Sometimes people don’t want to play with you but that doesn’t mean that you’re not worth playing with. And as for Siri, I made sure to tell her that I loved and appreciated her, to which she replied: “I don’t understand, ‘Siri I love and appreciate you’. But I could search the web for it.” Hmmmppphhh.