A Place at Every Table: Building Our Children’s Self Esteem — Darci Klein
“Children should be seen but not heard”
~Unknown author, but definitely someone who my son would drive bonkers
I am raising my children to believe they have a place at any proverbial table. I strive for them to have strong self esteem. It’s something I think about a lot. Maybe it’s because I grew up in a family where modest expectations, limited aspirations and low self-esteem were encouraged- even cultivated.
This scene in the Sopranos has really stuck with me. AJ visits his Grandmother at the hospital, and as her Grandson struggles with depression and the purpose of life, she offers sage advice: “The world is a jungle…and if you want my advice, don’t expect happiness.”
I heard similar advice growing up. Maybe that’s why I’ve made damn sure that my kids will look around and see far more possibilities than disappointments, and truly believe that if they work hard, they will succeed. We should all try to be mindful of being positive, even in tough situations, because our job is building self esteem in children.
This has worked great with my daughter. Maddie is a warm, positive person with solid self esteem. She’s also aware of her challenges- we all have them- but gaining confidence in her ability to manage her difficulties while seeing more possibilities than problems.
It’s also worked great for my son, Sam. That said, it may have worked a little too well on Sam.
Sam is a polite, hard-working kid. But he does have a few passions, namely, — the Boston Red Sox, New England Patriots, and Boston Bruins- that can bring out his inner swagger.
Sam spent last week at his favorite place: Boston Red Sox camp. He gets one week of Red Sox camp each summer, and it’s always among his favorite days of the year, especially the last day of camp: visiting the exalted Fenway Park.
The kids get to check out the dugout, walk on the field, meet a player (thanks, Matt Barnes!) and sometimes, see a team warm up.
As the kids stepped lightly across the sacred grass field, Sam noticed that the night’s rival Detroit Tigers were wrapping up practice and heading off the field, the same direction as the campers.
Now Sam is a guy who knows his baseball. Of the 156 games played every year, he likely watches 100. He knows the name, number and position of every Boston Red Sox member. He also knows much about rival team members. And being among the most loyal of Red Sox fans, I imagine that he fantasizes about talking a little smack to rival players.
As the enemy Tigers crossed paths with the exiting Red Sox campers, Sam actually had his chance, and he seized the moment.
Scanning the Tiger faces, he recognized David Price, a 6' 6" pitcher for Detroit. “Hey, David,” Sam said, “Your ERA’s gonna double tonight.”
I can only image the pitcher’s surprise to find himself talking smack with an 11-year-old in a Red Sox uniform. David told Sam that he didn’t think so.
When I picked up Sam after camp, his smile was ear to ear, and his smack session was the first thing he told me about.
Of course I laughed. Some might think Sam’s behavior a bit rude, but knowing his usual nature, I just felt a wave of contentment ripple through me. If ever I needed proof that Sam was growing into a confident, daring person with solid self esteem, I had it. No one will ever be able to convince Sam that he doesn’t have a place at the table, and I cherish that as a mothering success.
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Originally published at https://darciklein.com on August 30, 2021.