Wednesday, September 25, 2013

When Being Wrong is Hard and Scary

Annie: "I thought I was going to cry. The teacher told me to draw something round and I thought I was just drawing something OVAL." [Her teacher drew the example on the left. Also, to clarify she didn't misunderstand the instructions she was just beside herself because she physically couldn't draw a more circular shape.]

One of the things I've really been working on with Annie lately is letting go of worrying about being wrong. It's just something she struggles with and I know it's in her blood. I used to erase my name until my paper had holes in it because I wanted to do each letter perfectly. Honestly, that's a huge part of the reason I dropped the "Sarah" and went by just "Denley" starting in Kindergarten (I missed the double name so I picked it back up in college). It really makes me sad sometimes to look back on that little girl because she was so crippled by her compulsive need for perfection.

But at the same time, it's part of my story and it's part of who I am. That drive and motivation helped me succeed in a lot of things. And I've also come to realize that I don't really think there was anything anyone could have done to make it better. My mom did so much. In fact, it's probably to her credit that I functioned as normally as I did, especially those early years where she guided me through so much of it.

But seeing that in Ann Peyton? Is hard.

It's actually gotten better. This Summer was sort of rough. I remember at one point she refused to say the word "straw" at my parents' house. I thought she was just being silly, but I looked at her little face and I knew she was scared she was about to get the word wrong. It's just like when you see someone and you think you know their name, it's on the tip of your tongue, but your terrified you're wrong. Except it was about a STRAW. It didn't matter at all and I was the only one around and she was terrified of getting saying the wrong noun to describe the little sipping device.

Then she started doing this thing where she needed me to sort of validate and encourage her to say things, again really simple things. Like one day we were talking about a toy or something and she asked me who had given it to her. I knew that she knew my sister had and I asked her if she didn't know. "Cook..." and then she stopped and said "Can you say 'You're about to say it?'" and for awhile when we did her critical thinking books and stuff she needed me to prompt her in exactly that way before she'd answer a question. It became...a bit of a compulsion.

She's a smart girl and she knows what she's good at and what she struggles with and she says "can't" about the latter way more than I really think a four year old should.

One thing I'm doing is working really hard on focusing on how it is okay to fail. For a while, I'd say "Oh, but you can!". But honestly, that's not what she needs to hear. She needs to hear about what happens if she can't. And the truth is, sometimes there will be things she can't do-- at least not at first. She's asked me a few times lately "Why it okay (I know that's bad grammar) if I mess up.....because that's how we learn?" and I smile and nod. Peyton and I try to tell her that so often.

Another thing I'm doing is showing her when I make mistakes myself. I think this has really helped and it's also been good on a spiritual level because it reminds me that I need to ask for her forgiveness more often that I probably would otherwise. But sometimes it's just simple things-- "Oh no, momma left the top off the marker and it dried up...but it's okay" or "Oh look, momma made a wrong turn...no big deal!".

It scares me sometimes how much of myself I see in her, but I also know that God is going to guide me in the ways I need to support and encourage and comfort her. I'm so amazed every day by the incredible little person that she is.

1 comment:

Mallory from Mississippi said...

I'm the same way. I want Brennan to know these two things that I haven't known: 1) It's okay to make mistakes. 2) It's okay to be ordinary.