Monday, July 20, 2009


: the quality or state of being imperfect ; also : fault, blemish

A is attending a theater camp this week. All was well until this morning, when I told her to get ready for camp. While I was in the kitchen getting breakfast ready, I heard crying from A's room. When I went in to check on her, she was in tears that she was going to a new camp where she doesn't know anyone.

Enter my sinful nature. I was pretty frustrated at her reaction. She wanted to go to camp alone. (
She and B were signed up to attend to attend this camp together next week, but A wanted a bit of camp time separate from her sister, so I asked the camp director if she could attend this week instead. ) I had arranged this especially to meet that need. And I told her about it last week - so why wait until now to cry? And why just cry? Why not actually talk to me about it? Luckily, I did not say most of this to her. I did gently remind her that she was the one who wanted to go to camp without B. Her response? To sob, "Not this camp."

Now, I'll admit that I generally don't do a great job when A gets emotional like this. It makes me uncomfortable when she's emotional and I don't really like talking about emotions. So I tend to just give her space and encourage her to calm down. But I felt that wasn't my best approach today, even though it would have been the most comfortable. I think if I had taken my usual approach, A would have just bottled up what she was feeling. She would have pulled it together in time for camp, but the reason she felt the way she did would still be unaddressed. So I pursued conversation with her instead.

I encouraged her to tell me why she was scared. I reminded her of past successes. And as I did so, I realized that the reason A's emotional reaction made me uncomfortable is that I often feel the exact same way. I'm totally uncomfortable in a new group of people. I feel awkward, alone and embarrassed. So I confessed to her something that I do to cope when I'm around new people - I bring a book. That way, I can read instead of talking. This clearly wouldn't work at a camp, but one of the fears A shared was of having to eat her snack alone. I encouraged her to ask someone to sit with her and also suggested that she bring a book as a last resort. I admitted to her that reading instead of talking isn't always the best choice for me to make. When I do this, I end up not meeting anyone new and then I still feel bad about myself.

It made A feel better for me to admit to her that meeting new people is hard for me. I'll admit that it was hard for me to share this imperfection with her. I don't like to admit to myself, much less others, how socially awkward I am. But I recently finished reading The Birth Order Book and it talks about how first born and only children nearly all face perfectionism. One suggested approach to helping kids realize they don't have to be perfect is to show them your own imperfections. This doesn't come naturally to me, since I feel my imperfections are glaringly obvious to anyone who knows me. But maybe my daughter doesn't see from her vantage point how tense I am in groups of people that I don't know. Maybe she just thinks I'm completely comfortable in my own skin. Hopefully spotlighting my imperfections for A will let her know she's not alone in feeling like she does.

1 comment:

Chocolate, Vanilla and Caramel said...

Sounds like you handled it really well! I moved a lot growing up and often didn't know people when I would be in groups for the first time. It wasn't easy, but it certainly gave me a real heart for people who are new in any situation. Now, I tend to gravitate toward new people wherever I am and try to make them feel warm and welcome. Perhaps this experience will help your daughter to be more aware of other people at school or church who may be new or feeling left out and she will want to reach out to them.