How do you help a person to feel good about themselves? How does a person learn and begin to feel that they are trustworthy? The magnitude and implications of these concepts are enormous–whether you’re an employer trying to boost the morale of your staff, a friend trying to help someone you care about negotiate his/her way through a crisis, or a parent trying hard to imbue your child with the self-esteem that will play a crucial role in helping him/her to make good decisions–decisions borne of the self-respect they feel, that has been inculcated and cultivated ideally since they were born. There is no magic formula to be sure, but today it became clear that letting people do something new, trusting them to do their best while sticking close by should they require assistance might be a start.
We went to Brenton Point today–an idyllic scene for kite-flyers of both the amateur and experienced varieties. We fall into the former category, but Oscar, at four, may be moving into the latter. Last year he “assisted” Don by holding the kite along with him, holding it independently only briefly and under the strictest supervision. This year he held it, controlled it, and made it do tricks! He beamed with pride knowing that he was doing something he had never done before, that we were trusting him to hold on to the kite. Meanwhile, Edgar spied a crumbling though infinitely charming rock wall. He said, “Mommy, will you hold my hand so I can balance?” And back and forth we walked–sometimes clasping hands tightly, other times barely at all–he, too, bursting with the enthusiasm of being able to do something new, knowing that if he needed help it was nearby.
I have friends and members of my family who have raised or are raising teenagers, and I have taught teenagers 180 days a year for the last 18 years. And when I allow my mind to fast-forward ten years to Oscar and Edgar’s teenage years, well, there is a brief moment of terror pause that cannot be denied. It is my hope that as Oscar’s confidence continues to soar as high as the kite he flew today and Edgar’s ability to maneuver though rocky, often unstable territory grows that it is enough to keep them safe, healthy, and, ultimately, happy.