Friday, August 21, 2009

Being your own superhero

Carla, aka MizFit has an excellent post today which asks the question "How have you acted as your own superhero lately?" She opens it with a story about her toddler tornado daughter at the park which is just marvelous. It's one of those snippets which bring to mind all the breakthrough moments with my kids as I saw them growing into their personalities.

I love that MizFit keeps coming back around to the topic of self-image. Being your own superhero is a great message for me to repeat to the kids. All three have strengths, and I'd like them to focus on those as they head into the awkward years of middle and high school. I don't want to overdo it, and build a Stuart Smalley self-affirmation into their heads, but I do want them all to think of things in terms of balance, and bringing their best to the effort in whatever they try.

It's not going to be easy. With my daughter, it's an external thing - she's worried about what other girls think about her. From coming home in tears because a friend thought her bookbag was ugly, to being upset that she has a tougher time with multiplication facts than a couple of her other friends... it's a challenge.

In the case of the bookbag, I reminded her that she likes the bag, and picked it because it makes her happy to see the little bird & tree stitched on it. It's okay if somebody else doesn't like it, because it's not theirs. And, when she thought about it, DD admitted she didn't really care for the other girl's backpack, because it wasn't a color she likes as well. It gave me a chance to point out that one of DDs strengths is that she doesn't judge others based on silly things like backpack patterns.

With anything she brings up as a failing, I try not to patronize her by giving her the automatic "you're great" speech. If she's having a tough time with math, or with running, or art class - I remind her that she's great with science and language arts. She may not be able to run longer distances, but she can sprint like crazy, is a strong swimmer, and is a fantastic companion on long(ish) bike rides. With drawing, multiplication tables, and piano it takes practice. She'll keep getting better, or figure out she likes something else better - like photography and flute.

With the boys, it's more of an internal thing. They are their own worst critics. With them, it's a matter of reminding them they need to keep trying at the tough things - in school, sports and in plain old life. One of two things will happen. They'll either improve through practice to kick butt & love what they used to struggle with, OR find some other aspect of it they do love, and kick butt at that, instead.

B2 will beat himself up about anything less than perfect, and can talk himself into giving up before ever trying. He often has to be shoved - I mean gently nudged - into things. I can't count the times I've said "You're right - you might suck at [fill in the blank]. But you might not. You might even really be great at it. If you don't try, you'll never know."

B1 has a healthier attitude, and tends to shrug off his doom-n-gloom after a few minutes, then try - or try again. He's also very encouraging of others, and is always willing to throw in 110% to help out. (I love this about him.)

Oh, dear - I ended up rambling all over the place. What I was trying to get at is that MizFit's superhero approach is perfect for helping the kids shape their outlook on life. It's great for me, too. Just like comic book superheroes, we all have abilities and strengths that make us great at some things. With the areas in which we excel, there's also our fatal flaws and weaknesses. The trick is to focus on the things that make you super, and use those strengths to help you work on the other stuff.

And, if you're completely stuck... that's what a league of Superfriends are for.


Along this theme, MizFit's post reminded me of a song by Steve Burns, Mighty Little Man. It's from his album Songs for Dustmites, and it always makes me smile.

When the kidlets were smaller, there would be a victory run through the house anytime this song popped up in the playlist. Sometimes, the 1st grader (B1) would lead the laps around the house, sometimes not. The toddler B2 would run around, arms over his head, like he was crossing the finish line, singing the chorus at the top of his little voice. The not-yet-walking DD would bounce in her high chair, walker, or spot on the living room floor, waving her arms and "singing" along.

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