Monday, November 30, 2015

Raising an Underachiever

It's funny how you start to recognize your child.

At first, Judah was a colicky, demanding baby. A total stranger to me in every way.

And then his personality slowly emerged as he was more able to express his inner world of thoughts and feelings. Until now, at age 5, I have fully realized that Judah is exactly me (on the inside).

He is extremely sensitive.

He is driven by fear that others will be mad at him.

He is utterly embarrassed by any attention whatsoever.

And in a nutshell, he is a people-pleaser extrordinaire.

My sweet, (extremely) anxious, (overly) sensitive mini-me.

It's pretty freaky how much we're alike. Every posture and inclination he has finds complete resonance in my own heart. I'm now a big believer in Nature over Nurture.

So when Judah complains about going to school, I tell him things I'm pretty sure most parents would never tell their own kids.

I instruct him often: Don't try your best Judah.
And he objects: But Mrs. Hawkins will get mad at me if I don't do my best work!

It's especially hard to convince him to ease-up when his school actually recites a pledge every day, which includes a promise to do "your personal best."

But I know Judah.

I know the pressure of perfectionism is sucking all the joy out of school. I know his extreme efforts at forming the perfect upper and lower case letters completely stress him out. I know he kills himself to color intricately within the lines for fear. I know the kid who LOVED preschool doesn't want to go to kindergarten anymore because it's become a place of unbearably high anxiety born out of his desire to please his teacher, whom he loves.

So I implore him daily to NOT try his best.

But I can tell Judah is utterly confused by the blatant contradiction between my instructions and his teacher's mantras. And sometimes I wonder if I'm giving Judah the right message - don't try too hard, relax...I literally told him just to put in "HALF your best effort" because I didn't think he understood any other percentages.

Did I just basically tell my kid to half-ass everything at school? Does this make me a bad parent?


Tammy said...

Poor little guy! That's a hard way to live. But he's lucky to have a mother who understands him so well.

Alice in Wonderland said...

Awww thanks Tam!