For close to six years, Lenny and I did everything in our power to foster Big’s confidence. He was quiet, cautious and easily got lost in a crowd. When kindergarten started, we worried. Would he make friends? Would he speak up? Would he feel good about his place in the class? In the world?
About six months into the school year, Lenny and I were having an entirely different conversation. It seems kindergarten, t-ball and flag football had given him a bit of a boost. Perhaps too big a boost. Not only was he confident, there were times he was bordering on cocky. (And, from what I’m hearing from other friends, we’re not alone…this seems to be an end-of-school-year phenomenon.)
I was joking with my mom about my concerns and said Lenny and I needed to figure out a way to take him down a notch. She simply replied, “That’s not your job. There will be plenty in life to do that to him.”
That’s not my job. While it sounds totally obvious, it was such a powerful moment of insight to me. Not only did my mom say just what I needed to hear at that moment, I realized she (and my dad) always had.
My parents made it their job to build my brother and me up. They focused on our strengths and didn’t call attention to our weaknesses. They cheered us on for each and every accomplishment—even the seemingly little ones. They constantly told us they were proud of us—and meant it. They listened to what was important to us, then quietly led us down the path we needed to be on. They didn’t push, but held our hands. They showed us that they had confidence in us, which gave us confidence in ourselves. At times, maybe we teetered on the edge of being overly confident. Oh, but plenty knocked us down along the way. It just wasn’t our parents.
I’ve been thinking a lot about this. It’s easy for me to assume my job is to do things like make lunches, do laundry and get to practice on time. But really, my job is to do things like put a little note in that lunchbox that says I love you without using those squirm-inducing words. My job is to be sure the school shirt is clean so Big can show how proud he is to be a part of something so much bigger than himself on his very last day of kindergarten. My job is to deliver him into the hands of friends, coaches and teachers who will show him talents, skills and interests that make him the amazing person he’s meant to be. My job is to feel overwhelmingly proud.
And, today, on Big’s second-to-last-day of kindergarten, I do. I really and truly do. And you can bet I’ll be sure he knows it. (And I’ll certainly remind him come the beginning of 1st grade when he has to start all over again.)