This seems like one of those situations where I want to take credit for my son’s stellar behavior today, now that he’s twenty-two. Surely I did something right when he was three that is manifest today. Maybe something like stay out of his way and let him grow up to be who he always was anyway.
It turns out he’s become someone I’d call well-rounded, the thing we were striving for when he was young but weren’t sure was actually happening. You know the opposite of Tiger Woods, who was guided towards great angularity in his youth, groomed to be a super athlete, but, in my opinion sporting some impressive deficits as a result. My son is a nerdy college student writing programs for iPhones and attending video game conferences in his spare time, and setting off for a new job after two years at his first internship. At the request of this present employer, a little computer start-up company in Manhattan, he wrote a piece of advice addressed to incoming interns. It turns out he would like to tell them about the inevitability, but uselessness, of self-doubt citing the internal monologue some of us use to define ourselves and our roles.
Whaaaat? A reflective and self-aware nerd?
My son’s blog posting is a heartfelt and un-nerdy pep talk addressed to the next low-man-on-the-totem-pole who, like my son when he first arrived in the professional world, might not recognize what he brings to the table.
I am struck by the degree to which he realized that his insecurity was surmountable and unhelpful, and that he might inform the next kid in line not to fall prey to the predictable misunderstandings about his abilities. Somehow my guy talked himself through his insecurities and became a highly valued player at this company. I know this because every time he tried to take on a side project, or leave for somewhere else, the bosses tossed more money at him so he’d stay. For Pete’s sake, internships are notoriously unpaid!
It’s hard to actually take credit for this admirable behavior on my son’s part. After all, he’s running his own life, I’m not. But here are some things we might have done right along the way. I am sure that when we were not being strong and in control my husband and I were admitting our weaknesses to our children. And then, finding ways to overcome them and then telling that to the kids too! Like going to teachers, or therapists, or doctors, or accountants, or electricians, or whoever knew more than us, when the need arose. And here’s what we didn’t do. I didn’t pull strings to get my boy on the best teams, or to have the favored teachers, or do his homework for him, or fight his battles.
Yeah, I feel proud of my boy today, but I am pretty sure he led himself the whole way here. What I did was model confidence in being who you are.