I recently had a moment where I watched my one of my children become aware of her limitations and the onset of that complicated feeling; comparison.
With a recent change of jobs I was taking a break and spending some extra time with my girls. This meant I was able to head along to a new playgroup. It was small, welcoming, engaging and fun and just like most playgroups we have attended, there was a version of a 'goodbye' song at the end.
This particular playgroup had a fabulous little microphone that the children said 'goodbye!' into, when their turn came around. Despite being a little overwhelmed by the older and more familiar children, one of my daughters willingly said 'goodbye' into the microphone while the other shyly turned her head away. I rubbed her back and said "It's okay, you don’t have to say anything."
On the drive home the girls were chatting away and commented on one boy who had loudly and cheekily shouted 'goodbye!' into the microphone. Not really thinking too much about what I was saying as I navigated traffic, I said yes, he was very confident and brave. My girls both agreed.
Then my heart fell out of my chest and burst into a puddle of pieces trampled by emotion when a little voice over my left shoulder, said 'I wasn’t very brave today.' It was my daughter who hadn't wanted to say goodbye.
My jaw hung agape before my mouth swiftly went into action. "Oh darling," I commiserated, "We all have days when we don't feel very brave. And that's okay, we can learn to be brave! We have to practice how to be brave. We can practice so that you can be brave next time."
She seemed buoyed by the suggestion and with many reassuring hugs and kisses she seemed to forget all about it for the rest of the week. In the meantime my heart was hurting and I was determined to create an opportunity for her to be brave the following week.
I lay awake that night reflecting on how we often have a complete misunderstanding of confidence. How we can look at others adept in their career, seamlessly parenting their magnificently presented children and can compare ourselves without knowing how many times they have had to 'practice being brave'.
The following week I prepped the girls about playgroup before we arrived, and the opportunity to practice being brave by saying 'goodbye' into the microphone that day. They both seemed enthusiastic and I hoped I was allowing space for my daughter to once again decide if she didn't want to join in. I really wanted to make sure this was about character and not performance for approval because mummy wanted to see her do it.
As we were called to sit in a circle on the floor at goodbye time, I quietly caught my daughter's attention, and whispered "Remember you can practice being brave today," and she gave me a wide grin and scurried over to sit down. The microphone passed the confident boy with his loud exclamation, before being given to my daughter, and with only slight hesitation, she said a little 'goodbye' into the microphone.
I nearly jumped up and down and cheered when she looked over me with a beaming smile of a little one who has discovered they can overcome their fears, and will need to keep practicing to be brave many more times in the future.