I just realized something that should have been obvious to me long ago. Obvious because, after all, I do spend most of my time with The Dude and The Unicorn and I think I know them better than just about anyone. But I guess I don't, because looking at this photo now all I can think is, "How could I have missed understanding which of my children needs more help fortifying his self-confidence?"
I was looking at this photo and thinking about how great it is that The Unicorn (right) is so comfortable in his own skin despite the fact that he is so very different from most kids his age. And even though he's busily bubbling through life unaffected and seemingly unaware of his challenges I find myself super protective of his psyche, terrified that someone will put out that spark he has. Terrified that one day he will lose his fearlessness and the love of life which is such a big part of him. Terrified that one day he will think that being unique is a bad thing.
Then I looked to the other side of the photo at The Dude, my little man of steel. A child overflowing with cool and masculinity, seemingly impervious to pain and famous for his F.U. attitude. I chuckled to myself about how only The Unicorn is holding a balloon in the picture because moments before this photo was taken The Dude had refused to accept a balloon because "balloons are for babies" and then spent the next two hours staring jealously at the bobbing green thing tied safely to The Unicorn's wrist. And then it hit me. The Dude is the one who is actually shy, slower to warm up to people, more anxious when he is the center of attention. The Dude already cares about peer approval and about this or that being too babyfied for him. He's already told me he wouldn't wear a certain shirt because someone might laugh at him. Lightbulb! How did I miss just how much The Dude needs me to be there reminding him not to let anyone (including himself) put out his spark, to make certain that he never forgets how great he is just as he is.
Ugh. Being a mom is hard. All the cliches are true. There is always something new to learn. You never quite have it figured out. You can't parent any two children the same way. Your kids teach you as much about the world as you teach them. Being a parent will help you discover a lot about yourself. The only way to parent effectively is to question yourself and your viewpoint regularly, then adjust as needed. You must grow with your children. And now here's another cliche I've found to be true: Clarity is best achieved using the eyes of an outsider.
I'm so sorry Dude. I missed that catch but I'm back in the game and I won't drop that ball again.