Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Balancing the Ego

No, not mine :) My daughter, Sylvia.

She's a great kid with no real heavy issues, but she does tend to have a hard time not being in the spotlight. I joked about this a few days ago - about how she would be one of 3 out of a couple hundred kids to get interviewed by the announcer before the race! She's spoken at a Jane Goodall event, she gives VIP tours at KIPP, she has gotten spontaneous ovations at her school plays...the girl can command a stage.

I can't remember which David E. Kelley series it was ("Ally McBeal?" "The Practice?" "Boston Legal?"), but I'll never forget this one episode about the woman who carried around her own spotlight and applause box. This is my fear for Sylvia's future: her ability to live outside of center stage.

When they're little, we spend a whole lot of time (as we should) building up those egos, making sure they're confident. Just a month or so ago, at the parent teacher conference for Sylvia, we talked about how we should continue to boost her confidence to alleviate her nerves for tests. And it seems to have worked, as evidenced by her last, straight A report card.

But where and when do we start pulling it back?

She's a bit of a teacher's pet, and has been razzed by some classmates because of that. I've told her not to worry about it, it's more important to do well in school, but she now spends most of her lunch periods helping teachers in their classrooms. She has the usual ups and downs of typical middle school friendships, and I know that's normal, but I'm beginning to wonder if it'd be better for her to fit in a bit more. She's smaller than most of her classmates, and a little younger, too.

I think her "chutzpah" is a good thing, overall, and helps her to be admired by those who wouldn't feel as comfortable getting up to speak to the entire 5th grade class. She's befriended one of the best students in the class, and I'm glad she's hanging with that kind of crowd, but they had a little problem yesterday.

Sylvia and D partnered up for a class project, but they argued about whose idea they would use. Now, D is also a Type A personality, as she only agreed to do the project with Sylvia if Sylvia agreed to use all of D's ideas. Sylvia tried to get the same agreement out of D, but D refused. Sylvia did not.

Sylvia ended up not liking D's idea, and D got upset with her for not going along with it.

This is your classic struggle among two strong personalities.

I told Sylvia, "I have 2 thoughts on this. One of them, you're not going to like. The other one, you probably will. Which do you want first?"

She chose the one that she wasn't going to like. I proceeded to tell her that while I think it's great that she's such a natural leader, sometimes it's good to work as a team, and let someone else have the spotlight. D is not an Ambassador, and hasn't shared the spotlight nearly as much as Sylvia has at KIPP. It might be good to let her run the show on this one.

Sylvia protested all through it, but I asked her to just let me finish and then we'd get on to my other thought.

My other thought was that she should never have agreed to go along with all of D's ideas in the first place. That she should've said, "well, maybe we shouldn't work together this time," and be prepared to find another partner. Sylvia didn't like that idea as much as I thought she would because she is afraid of losing D's friendship as a result of that.

I told her to take some time thinking about my first thought, and we'd talk about it more over the weekend. (There's only so much time we have together in the evenings for "deep thoughts.")

Now, of course, I'm questioning my handling of the situation. Should I've just been supportive and validated her feelings? She was okay. She just wanted a hug afterwards, which of course, I was happy to give. Is it too soon to start taking her off the pedestal?

In my heart of hearts, I don't think so. I think that she does need to learn that we don't always get our way, that we have to weigh the pros and cons and keep our egos out of it sometimes. But I still have the question mark in my head about it.

Maybe it'll happen naturally. Maybe I don't have to interfere at all, and just let life take its course. Maybe I should just listen and keep my mouth shut. Maybe being on the soccer team will help her get the "teamwork spirit" that I fear she lacks. And maybe she doesn't lack it as much as I think she does. Maybe I'm over-reacting.

This is one of the most frustrating parts of parenting. You do what you think is right at the time, but maybe 5 years from now, I'll see my mistake in handling this. When it's way too late.

Maybe it is about balancing my ego, after all!


MarĂ­a said...



Tara R. said...

Trying to be empathic to her 'not in the spotlight' friend is not a bad thing. Learning how to make the best of a team situation, even when you don't necessarily like all the decisions, is a valuable skill in the work world.

OHmommy said...

You are teaching her some valuable lessons.

Thank goodness my kiddos aren't in real school yet.... seems like an entire level of problems. I am not ready for those. :)

KG said...

So you're asking "When do I start pulling back?" I think the answer to that is "never."


I mean, she's going to find out eventually that she's not the center of the world. Don't let that lesson come from her mom.

When I was a kid, I was a total attention whore . . the star of every theater production, the trophy-winner on the debate team . . yes, I was a geek. But by the time I got to college I had an understanding of reality . . . and was able to do just fine without being the center of the universe . . . though I AM in law school, now . . . so maybe you can disregard that last part. heh.

Anonymous said...

Oh this sounds like my girl. Her Dad is a musician and I try to emphasize that she doesn't need to be "on stage" all the time. Her dad is pretty like that though...we may be doomed here. :)

Kori said...

I will throw my two cents in here as well...I disagree with law student above, because I think it is totally our job as parents to help our kids learn the hard lessons-that the workd does not, in fact, revolve around them. Because it IS our job to teach them learn the hard things, as it is by definition our job as parents. Also, I think the lessons that come from us, ones like this, are a lot easier on our kids than the ones learned by the raptors of juntior high! My take? She should follow through on her commitment to be a partner with D on this one-because whether she likes it or not, and is wishing she HADN'T, she DID agree to follow all of D's ideas, and she should be obligated to follow through on that. She will probably make a different choice the next time. I also think that it is good for her to see that maybe other people have ideas that are just as good as hers, which can be a hard pill to swallow. Last, as mcuh as we all like to think our kids will be the ones who "make it," the reality is that at some point in her life, probably more than once, she will have a boos whose ideas she doesn't like or agree with but she still has to do the job. I don't think there is anything wrong with validating her feelings-they are hers, whether you feel the same wya or not; however, there is a fine line between letting her htink that she is all that when really, maybe in this case she isn't. Does that make sense?

Melissa said...

This is hard because ever parent needs to let go but also not loosen up. When it comes to my child drinking and maybe doing drugs we will fight that and not loosen up and will watch like a hawk if a point of not pushing them away.

But then havnig to handle certain problems parents need to give their children a chance to handle them on their own. They need to learn to solve their own problems cause we are not always going to be there.

The only thing we can always do as a parent is to comfort and give support. Comfort when feelings are hurt, help them be opamistic, and see the big picture.

It is sad, but sometimes kids only learn when they feel the pain of the consiquence. But if we love them we will want them to learn this and be able to grow up self sufficent adults, even though it may be hard

Mom Knows Everything said...

Melinda told me it was your birthday, so Happy Birthday!

Anonymous said...

This is fascinating to me. My little one is already demonstrating signs of needing to be in the spot light at all times. She's active and creative and... well, assertive. I don't want to discourage that, but how and when do you start trying to intervene?

I'll be reading these comments with a pen and paper...

Anonymous said...

Ugh, I have no clue or advice. That's why I read these blogs, so when Son is old enough, I'll *maybe* know what to do!!

FreedomFirst said...

No, I think you did exactly the right thing. And besides, one mistake isn't going to jeopardize her whole future anyway. Kids will have to learn at some point that friends don't always get along, and it's a tough lesson if things stay sour. But still one of life's important ones. Hopefully this will blow over for her without too many waves.