Sunday, October 30, 2016

     Yesterday in a brief discussion with my hair stylist about “mean girls” and “wacky women,” I asked the question, “Are those of us who only think mean things but don’t verbalize them or act on them any better than the mean girls who act out those thoughts?” Hmm. Our conversation came to a screeching halt. She stopped mid-bang, and stared into the mirror at me. We both laughed. It is so easy to criticize others who act out inappropriately, but truth be told, we all have some “mean” in us. I’d like to believe it’s human nature, and those of us who are civilized and mature know when inappropriate actions aren’t an option. 

     She told me that the beautiful girl who was the homecoming queen showed up at her reunion “fat with five kids” . I related that I didn’t go to mine, but I heard later that the “gorgeous bitch” who all the girls envied in high school showed up at the reunion looking like she was 17. I said, “I was so glad I decided not to go.” So who are the “mean girls” here? Hmm.

     In high school, most of us didn’t recognize our own unique worth, and comparing was like brushing our teeth; it was an expected, necessary daily ritual. I learned later in life that comparison is the enemy of self-confidence. Well, actually, I tried to learn it, but I’m still not there yet. Every so often, I hear myself say, “Wow! I wish I had skin like that!” or “Why did she get the boobs and I didn’t?” 

     Once I recognized that part of my insecurity growing up was always comparing myself to those smarter, prettier, more accomplished than me. I blamed it on my parents who compared me to my sister with a “higher IQ” or some daughter of their friends who “gets all As and just got crowned Homecoming Queen.” My sister with a higher IQ has been married five times and is an alcoholic. The Homecoming Queen woman said to me at her mother’s funeral, “I wish I looked like you.” Who knew?

      How can we instill in our children and grand-children that comparing is not productive. We need to teach them to strive for excellence and compare themselves only to their own previous performance. How do we instill confidence without conceit? How do we teach self-worth without making them self-focused and narcissistic? I have no clue, as my parents raised us as they were raised—with love and criticism. Yes, that sounds contradictory and it is, but that’s what people did in those days. Those were the days of spankings and shaming. These are considered “abusive” today. I wonder, however, how nurturing it is to hand your child an I-pad and ignore him. I wonder how nurturing it is to hand your child an I-phone and then use it as leverage for the behavior you want to see. 

     It is so easy to sit and espouse empty platitudes to create the “perfect” child, but in truth, there aren’t any “right ways.” We each come to parenting with a history of our own. We take what we thought “worked,” and we use that adding to it whatever “trendy” ways society dictates that we need in order to raise the “perfect” child. I wonder what Donald Trump’s parents taught him? I wonder what Abe Lincoln’s parents instilled in him? I wonder how the Dali Lama would be different if he was handed an I-pad when he was two. Hmm. Food for thought.