When I was in the 7th grade I auditioned for the dance team. It was my first real tryouts and I was so anxious and excited to be a courtside dancer in the 8th grade. Before then, as far as sports went, I had only participated in recreation league cheerleading.
I practiced all week, got the routine down pat, and felt confident. One of my friends missed a couple days of auditions, so I offered to help her learn the steps. We practiced together and I hoped that we’d both make the team. In the end she made the it and I didn’t.
I was devastated. Seriously so upset. My parents had never seen me that way. Eventually I got over it, and I tried out and made the cheerleading squad a month or so later. One thing that stuck out to me from that experience was a conversation I had with my mother.
“Don’t help someone else get what you want before you have it yourself.” I don’t know if it was that statement, or something else that set a spark of competitiveness in me.
Through the years I’ve remembered that remark, and it’s come up in other conversations about gifts, jobs, and other goals I’ve worked toward. It never quite set right with me, but now that I have kids of my own I’ve realized it’s not the lesson I want them to learn. In my mother’s defense, her experiences in life could have taught her she needed to look out for herself, and influenced her decision to give me this advice. Nevertheless, it’s not the one I want my children to learn.
Ambition is one thing, but the way you treat others in your pursuit of happiness is also important. As a person my kids look up to for wisdom–A superhero in their eyes, my mission is to teach them this lesson.
I want my children to know they’re blessed with their own talents, and have unique gifts to give to the world… Superpowers if you will. When I’ve talked with my daughter about her talents and what she’s good at, she will sigh through the conversation. But when I ask her about her SUPERPOWERS she gets excited to tell me how she’s a super artist who can craft things that make others happy.
She tells me she has the superpower of kindness, to help her brother and her family. Now it’s my responsibility to help her harness those talents, and others she discovers within herself.
Like she said, she loves art, and she’ll never turn down an opportunity to make a craft, so we busted out the glitter and glue to make a special superhero cape to highlight her gifts.
I’ve started a new partnership with Barbie, and they sent us a bag of crafts to get inspired as a part of their #BeSuper campaign. All I had to do was show her the bad and Lil’ J got to designing. She asked me to help her cut out a heart, which I thought was appropriate for her kindness. We started decorating that when she changed her mind and said she’d rather a star. When I questioned why she wanted a start instead of a heart she said “Because mom, I’m a shining star!”
Lil’ J directed me on where to add the glue and she sprinkled the glitter and positioned the star. When I complained about my crooked star skills she said “It’s ok mommy, it looks great to me!” Seriously, she is good at this kindness thing.
She couldn’t wait for her cape to dry–I mean really, she couldn’t wait and she put it on before it was totally dry… So did her brother. So some of the glitter smudged a little, but she didn’t care. She was so proud to put it on and show off our accomplishment.
There must be something about a cape and mask that makes you feel powerful. I want her to always feel that way about her talents, and I want her to highlight them in a positive way.
I recently visited a local Montessori preschool for a news story and sat down and interviewed the director at length. When I turned the camera off and we continued to talk about motherhood, how we want the best for our children, how our parents want the best for us. She told me how she doesn’t push her son to be competitive. “There’s no reason to be competitive” she told me. She considers it a habit society ingrains in us that shouldn’t be. This conversation really stuck with me.
I suppose to some degree it’s natural to be competitive. Survival instincts I guess. But what if we used our talents to better each other, instead of using them to climb over one another?
Maybe back in the 7th grade, my talent wasn’t in dance (trust me, it wasn’t) but with helping someone else learn the choreography, and being a good friend. Imagine how much good we could do if we were all focused on helping one another find our superpowers, and supported each other in using them to the best of our abilities.
This is a message I want to teach my children. That yes, they should do their best, but not for the sake of winning, or beat someone else. If you must race, run with them, not against them. Be a good musician to fill a room with beautiful music, not to be deemed “the best” by a set of judges. Winning feels good, but not as good as your own delight in knowing how well you’ve done.
I think I would have spared myself a lot of heartache had I lived this philosophy my whole life. Not to mention done a lot more good. It’s not going to be as simple as flipping a switch for me. Competitiveness and jealousy is a tough tendency to kick. But it’s better late than never, and I’m really going to try to focus on being a good example in supporting and uplifting others. Especially since my little girl is already so good at that herself.
For now the cape we made together will serve as a little reminder of how special she is, and be a lesson we can expand on. Teaching my kids to do their best and using their “powers” for good… If I can somehow instill this lesson in my children, then I think I will have succeeded in my quest as their supermom.
What important lessons do you want your kids to know? How do you help them find their talents?
*This post was written in partnership with Barbie in an effort to help our children #BeSuper.