When I was a girl (both little and big) I had very little confidence. There were a lot of incidences where I was dumstruck in social situations and had no idea how to handle them. On one occasion me and my sister arrived at my brother’s fancy dress competition at school with our multi coloured ponchos on (it was the 70’s!) and were handed a ticket to take part. We were so embarrassed and didn’t know what to do so we attempted to shove the ticket into our mum’s handbag. She caught us out and did a great big embarrassing snorty laugh before giving it back to the ladies at the desk. I was always a bit angry about that, like my lack of confidence was my mum’s fault.
I did ballet, but my sister did no extra currilcular activities. I stopped ballet 2 years in, once I was in a class of 3 and the other 2 girls were older than me and wouldn’t speak to me. My sister did no activities at all.
I have always been a bit unimpressed my mother didn’t have us do lots of activities or that she didn’t try and encourage us to be more outgoing, but having witnessed my daughter today, I may have figured out why.
Pickle has always been a bit of an emotional girl. She’s 5 now but very unsure in circumstances she’s not familiar with (not unlike me), however since her operation 4 weeks ago it has really got bad. The first birthday party she attended about 8 days after her operation, she clung to me like a limpet and refused to take part. This isn’t massively unusual for her, if I’m there, she does hang on to us for about 10 minutes, until a friend puts their hand out or an entertainer gets her doing something. This time it took over an hour (the party was only 1.5 hours long) before I could leave her and then she got hit by another child accidently and ended up back with me for 10 minutes.
Yesterday I took her to her first tennis lesson. We HAD talked about it. She had initially had to be convinced to try it out. Once she had agreed I did discuss with her what she will be like when she gets there. We weren’t pushy, but we told her why we thought she’d enjoy it and encouraged her by reminding her how good at swing ball she is. I then reminded her, that her friend would be there and there will be children of lots of different ages and abilities. I said I know she’ll want me nearby and I would be staying with her the whole time and she needn’t be clingy. I tried to mitigate her lack of confidence.
A few days beforehand at bedtime I told her I was taking time off work to take her and that I hoped she wouldn’t getting worried about going or change her mind when we got there. She told me that she would be brave and wouldn’t get clingy or cry.
Well, the promises of a 5 year old hold little weight I’m afraid. She was fine when we first arrived but the minute we got on the court she clung to my leg and cried and cried and cried. Nothing could convince her to let go or take part in any of the activities. She kept crying and eventually after 20 very LONG minutes, I took her back to the car and drove her home.
I was fuming!!! I was so cross I could barely put my thoughts into words. We drove back in silence.
Now, before you start thinking I’m the cruellest mother ever, it’s one thing for me to have a few hours of contemplation of events and quite another when it’s happening right there in front of you. An hysterical girl, a trainer who is trying his best to get her to play, a woman in high heels (me) attempting to “join in” to convince her child, all the other mums OUTSIDE the court sitting down watching their children follow instructions, the £27 cheque, the time off work. I was massively embarrassed and I am positive that any one else in my position would have been as well. It’s hard not to be cross. Irrationally I wanted her to be just like the other children and just get on with it. The trouble is she isn’t one of the other children, she’s my child and she’s different. The sensible adult in me knows you should “feel the fear and do it anyway” but that’s a big old jump for a 5 year old who just wants “to go home”.
I was still angry when I got her back to the house and left her with her grandma and brother and got back into the car to go to work. Being left alone for 45 minutes for my journey to work I dwelled on what had just happened.
Is she just lacking confidence? Is it just that she’s taken a bit of a knock since the accident? Will this sit with her for the rest of her life so she’s always a bystander and never taking part? Is there anything I can do now that can boost that confidence?
Then I thought about what I was like and realised I was no different. I don’t think there was any coincidence that my lack of out of school activities was probably linked to my general nervouseness in groups. I’ve never been one to “muck in” and I have no idea why I thought my daughter would be any different. I think I partly blamed my parents for not building my confidence and partly blamed the fact that I had a sister 18 months younger than me an therefore I never needed to find a playmate. That is not the same for Pickle. Her brother is 3 years younger than her and it’s likely they’ll have less in common as they get older.
I’m not sure if there is something I should be doing here? Do I gently and slowly find a way to encourage her to take part more often or do I accept that she is a bit of a wall flower and watch as she misses out on some wonderful experiences because of it? I know I missed out on so many things because I couldn’t even speak to an adult and I really don’t want her to have the same issues. Do I stop trying to book her into activities? Do I decline party invites before she even knows about it because I can’t be dealing with the leg clinging and crying? Because even if she said she won’t I know there is an 80% chance she will.
Anyone with any advice on what I can do?