I believe all children are born perfect. I even believe some of their character traits can even be observed while they are still in the womb.
If children are born perfect, then how do we end up with so many mental issues later in life?
I look at some of the issues affecting myself. Apparently, like most young children, I had a hard time being quiet. Then comes the old adage of “children should be seen yet not heard.” Wherever did this come from? Was it from some poor mother with a pounding headache who couldn’t hear herself think? Looking back on my Grade 1 report card, there was a comment, “Jenifer likes to bug her neighbours in class. She is always poking them and talking to them.”
If you ask any of my employers, this trait apparently never left.
So then why would people call me shy and quiet, while others today would call me a social butterfly? I take it that something must have been triggered into my psyche where I felt I was not allowed to talk. This armor started to crack at around the age of 15.
Between about 6 and 15, I was shy and quiet. I kept to myself and observed. I had a few close quality friends; one who is like the sister from another mother to me. Around my family, I learned to simply sit back and observe or find something else to occupy my time. I chose not to have a loud voice to compete with others as I felt people must not value my opinion. Yet there was a piece that would stand up and fight for what I believe in.
At 15, the blanket started to unravel. I attended Alberta Girls Parliament with my Pathfinder group. We travelled to Edmonton, our provincial capital, where we held a mock Parliament. For our big debate, my side was defending anti-smoking legislation. I was grateful I was on this side as I am a non-smoker and would totally be in favour of banning smoking. At one point, I stood up to make my point, and I froze. I couldn’t speak. I shamefully sat down and felt like I wanted to melt into my chair. The speaker of the house sent me a note. She told me to write my thoughts down on a piece of paper, then stand back up to state my case. I followed her advice and was happy to share my thoughts.
Later that year, I had the privilege of attending a huge youth conference through my church. It was Triennium at Purdue University. There were thousands of youth from around the world in attendance. I was the only person from my church going. I was freaked out I didn’t know anyone. My parents arranged for me to meet a few kids from another city prior to our trip. I still felt all alone. We arrived the day before the conference started. I was homesick. I wanted to hop on the plane and go back home. Then the conference started. I realized we were all their for the same reasons. I pulled out of my shell and started introducing myself to people and started to make some new friends.
I was now starting the fight with the inner demon I had created in myself. I was supposed to be shy and quiet, yet I felt like I wanted to share everything with the world.
Years went by and I went to university. Again, I was in a new city, not entirely alone, yet alone enough. I didn’t know anyone at school aside from some cousins who were in different programs. I figured I needed some friends. I quickly learned it is best to be yourself than to try to be someone you are not. I joined a student group and I bloomed. This is where I met my husband. This is also where I started to learn more about the person I am.
As a parent of 2 young girls, we need to step back and realize how we treat our kids can affect them later on in life. I’m not saying you need to baby them and shelter them. Instead, I think we need to pay attention to their natural talents and personalities, and help them positively develop those talents.
It is not about trying to shape your child into who you wish you had been. It is not about having them follow in your footsteps. It is not about treating them how you were treated as a kid. Don’t try to live your life vicariously through your children. Don’t try to force your own insecurities on your children. Instead, find positive ways to help them to discover who they are.