The other night, after the kids had gone to bed, while the Ranger game was on in the background and Scott and I were finally getting a few minutes to sit down together, I got sucked into that black hole that is the world of Buzzfeed quizzes. This one promised to finally and definitively answer the question that is ever-present at the forefront of my mind…
Which Classic Hollywood Actress Are You?
I was going along, answering hard-hitting journalistic queries such as Which one of these stores would you have a shopping spree at? (Answer: Chanel – because Anthropologie wasn’t an option) and Which one of these headlines would you secretly like to see about yourself on the cover of a tabloid? (Answer: “What She Knows” because it was the least offensive), when I got to Which one of these words would your friends use to describe you?
I was able to weed out some of the more obvious options such as “shy” and “glamorous”, but could not for the life of me figure out which of the choices people would be likely to choose, so I asked Scott for his opinion… Now, let me tell you, Scott absolutely loves when I ask him to stop watching a playoff game in order to indulge me in things like this. He
let out a deep exhale and rolled his eyes enthusiastically read over the adjectives offered and said it was between “hard-working”, “funny”, and “fearless”. When I pushed him to pick one because I was uncomfortable having to label myself and honestly thrown by the ones he had narrowed it down to, he went with “hard-working” which baffles me. Luckily, this was before the game went into overtime, or I think he would have gone with a fourth option that resided in the lower right-hand corner (not that he would have actually said it).
I was somewhat surprised by the first and the last options he gave. Okay, perhaps my gallows humor and constant stream of self-depticating remarks would lead people to think I have a decent sense of humor, but “fearless”? I mean, I have panic attacks not just about not being able to fall asleep, but have recently added having panic attacks about having a panic attack about not being able to fall asleep to my impressive repertoire.
And as for the one he ended up settling on, I honestly don’t know if I’m more confused because people might think I’m hard-working when I feel like I’m the laziest person I know, or if perhaps I actually AM hard-working and still don’t see it because my mother’s successful conditioning and incessant insistence that You’re not living up to your potential and If you only applied yourself, you could be doing so much better along with things like I don’t know why you’re bothering to go back to school – you’ve never been able to finish anything you started before, why do you think this time will be different? from the first 30+ years of my life is still in place.
I hate that at 36 years old, there are parts of me that are clearly still under her spell.
I wish that I had the ability to start fresh, to see myself through a kinder lens, to experience Locke’s tabula rasa – be a blank slate.
And this all circles back to my concerns about what I say to my children, how much of it they absorb and what slides off. Whether that paper cut becomes a permanent scar or that compliment makes her soul grow a full inch. What if constantly reinforcing how proud I am of him walking down the stairs by himself turns into something that disproportionately inflates his ego? Or, even worse, what if it highlights his limitations to the point that I put a cap on his own expectations of his capabilities?
While I know I am uber-aware of making sure that I do my best not to intentionally put my children down, do I also need to be careful of how much I build them up? How much do I tell him about having Cerebral Palsy? About the fact that part of his brain just never developed? About autism? What do I say to her about her sensory issues? About the anxiety that cripples her in so many aspects of her life at this point? What do I tell her about her arthritis?
Do I continue to maintain that they can do and be anything they want to? Am I doing them a favor or a disservice by reiterating these assertions to them?
Is making them self-aware and being careful not to over-inflate their egos better or worse than projecting my fears about their limitations onto them to the point that those concerns actually become self-imposed limitations? What should take precedence? Confidence or reality? Are they mutually exclusive in this case?
I don’t have the answers to any of these rambling and seemingly unending questions.
I do know that I am certainly not fearless, but I just may be the most hard-working anxiety-generating machine you’ve ever met.