While my ADHD 10 year old son was practicing his new favorite activity/sport, rollerblading, I served my own adult ADD by pulling out my phone and downloading a trailer for a new Netflix show entitled Atypical.
We are in the middle of our block. He’s skating, I'm sort-of watching It’s darkening, almost night. Perfect time to watch a trailer on my phone.
Brief synopsis without any spoilers, the show centers around a relatively high functioning autistic or Asperger’s teenager in high school whose sole desire is to have a relationship with a girl.
As I’m watching the trailer my son skates over. He’s a little tired from doing spins and tricks. He catches his breath by resting his arm around me and we watch together. He’s immediately wrapped up in the show's trailer.
Moments later, the main character says, “at some point in my lifetime I want to see boobs.”
My son says, “Dad, I want to see boobs, too.”
“You don’t need to see boobs.”
“Have you ever seen boobs?”
“I don’t want to have this conversation with you right now,” I say, chickening out. “You’re ten.”
“I want to see boobs.”
“You don’t need to.”
“I can if I want to.”
“Doesn’t work that way.”
“Have you ever seen mommy’s boobs?”
“I do not want to talk about this with you,” I say.
“Just tell me!”
“I’m not talking about it!”
“I’ll take that as a No!” he says and skates off triumphantly.
I often experience financial insecurity.
I worry about how I will cover all my bills. I worry about how we will give our kids the best education, repair things when they break, or find the time to concentrate on the work that will improve our lifestyle.
I never seem to have enough money to do or get or buy all the things that I want for my family.
Look closer at the wording in the above lines: "never able to get or buy all the things that I want."
I'm talking about things.
I'm talking about things that I want.
Things are not necessities. And wants are not what we need.
My family has everything that they need. I have everything that I need. It's what we do with what we have that makes the difference.
Similarly, my own inner critic just won't shut up. He - or they, since it seems like a panel of critics at times - perpetually try to convince me that I'm not good enough to do what I want; I don't have the training, I'm not experienced enough, too old, too young, wrong background, etc. From writing a book to fixing a car, to teaching a class, my inner critic tries to convince me to give up before I even start. And when I do start, as soon as something goes wrong - and somethIng usually goes wrong - that critical voice comes screaming from the back of my head saying, "I TOLD YOU SO!!"
I'm a grown man. I have succeeded in many accomplishments. And still, that voice calls out.
Imagine what it's like for kids.
Kids and teenagers go through these same feelings of insecurity. They see what other people have and suddenly feel that what they have isn't good enough. That inexplicably translates - immediately - into feeling that they are not good enough. And voila! - low self-esteem is birthed.
Kids compare themselves to other kids all the time. They see other kids in bigger houses or with nicer, more expensive equipment, or getting tutors and personal coaches. How is an average kid from an average home supposed to compete with a kid who is shuttled from one mentor to another, practice, coaching, games, travel teams, more practice, math tutors, music lessons, tournaments and competitions, and on and on.
And social media does not help at all!
Social media is the place where people get to brag about all the wonderful amazing things they are doing with their lives; snapshots of moments that exclude the failures along the way.
Everybody fails. So why are we so afraid of it?
Kids do not get a chance to be kids today. Is it their fault? Hell no! It's the fault of the parents who think that their kid has to keep up with every other kid, not miss out, lose a step, blow a scholarship opportunity... at 8 years old!
Insecurity is the result of a society that feeds off of achieving greatness and accomplishing goals, without acknowledging the hard work and failures that had to be overcome along the way.
Scholarships and rewards and trophies - they are results. They are not the story.
The first step, the hard work, the desire to quit, the prayers for the inner strength to press on, get back up and keep going - that's the story
Parents focus on the end-game, not the journey. As a society, we are preoccupied with status and so are our kids, as a result. It's the wrong message.
Celebrating the spirit of endurance and hard work - that's the message.
By focusing on each step in our paths we can empower our children to also find pride and confidence in their ability to sustain their effort, to not give up, and to know that they are better than those critical inner voices that want to tell the they're not good enough.
We all have that inner critical voice - some ore than others.
It's just a feeling. It's not real.
And it's not true.
Failure has a bad reputation; but failure is the best teacher.
Be proud of your failures because they are the result of trying to do better.
Hi. My name is Stephen Tesher. I am a novelist, screenwriter, educator, and father. I've authored three books, staged numerous plays and optioned screenplays, articles, and this blog.