Most of that maze seemed difficult, but overall I made it through. Six years ago, or maybe even last year, if you would have asked me about it I would have shrugged it off as a rite of passage and something everyone goes through...not that big of a deal. Because despite my struggle to figure out who I am and what I am worth, I have consistently remained outwardly confident. I never hesitated to do what I wanted or say what I felt in front of my peers. My hesitation was more centered on my actions and feelings in front of my family. But my peers have always and continue to feel like a safe little haven where I can be who I want to be and do what I want to do. I never hesitate to throw a party, to have too much wine, to second guess why I am in aisle 8 of the grocery store in the same pajama bottoms that I have worn two nights in a row, to tell a joke in front of a group or teach a class at the university. It just comes naturally.
Now that I am a mama, and really within this last year, I see it from a different perspective, though. I see it through the eyes of my eldest son. A boy with fierce emotions and feelings. A boy with an outwardly shy disposition. A follower. A pleaser. And I have to tell you, folks...the view sucks. I have begun to see an inward struggle (and more and more frequently an outward expression) in my little man's mind. A struggle between what he may want to do and what he thinks his peers want him to do. Refusing a hat on a frigid day because it is the same hat a little girl made fun of him in the week before. Shying away from his favorite Spiderman shirt for fear of other kids thinking he "looks silly." Reporting to me after I ask if he worked on his South America map at school, that so-and-so didn't feel like working on it today so we chose something else. Not including his gregarious little 3-yr-old brother on the playground because his big boy friends don't want little boys to play (this one didn't go over well with Mama Bear).
It has started ever so subtly, but has struck a nerve in this nervous mommy who tends to freak out with each new parenting challenge. I am not so naive to think that this doesn't happen to every kid at some point in time. I am also not arrogant enough to believe that my children are destined to be leaders and trendsetters and problem-free. But, I am the type of person who thrives on watching human dynamics and makes every attempt to analyze situations and ward off problems that are within my control.
But, perhaps that is the problem? Maybe this little boy feels so secure and well tended to that when he enters the big, bad world without his
I don't necessarily think that being a follower is a negative. Although, our society tends to send this message with leader being at the top of every positive feedback model known to man. In all honesty, hearing the words "he likes to follow" at a parent-teacher conference was a bit unnerving. But the more I thought about it in the days that followed, the more I saw the equal strength and good in that particular label. I thought about the different roles that leaders and followers play - each being important. I thought about the humility and patience it takes to be a follower. I thought about the arrogance and aggressiveness I have used as a leader, sometimes resulting in disaster or hurt. So, as foreign as it is to me, I accept and feel honored to watch and learn from this style. Sometimes he will need this hat, and sometimes he will need to practice wearing the hat of leadership. I know he is capable of both.
BUT, I want him to find his niche, with the main focus on being comfortable being himself. I am frantically searching the back corners of my mind to figure out what the secret is and how I can help support him and encourage him through the first steps of this crazy maze.
The worst news? He is only 5 years old. Does this really start this early?
The best news? He is only 5 years old. We have plenty of time to figure it all out, and I have plenty of love.