For a competitive person, having kids can be a bear. I notice when kids Finn’s age can do things that he can’t. I don’t ever make an issue of it to Finn, of course. Instead, I’ll take it up with Tom, whose non-Asian genes I tend to blame for all of my kids’ problems, real or imagined. My parental anxiety usually makes itself known in the middle of an unrelated discussion, like so:
Tom: “And then there’s, you know, college tuition…and that’s why I think maybe you shouldn’t go to the mall so often.”
Yoona: “Ok, fine. And maybe YOU should work on your table manners, because in case you haven’t noticed, Finn is the only kid his age who eats spaghetti with his hands.”
Tom: (resigned sigh).
Around the age of 5, it apparently becomes imperative for kids to start signing their own names to their friends’ birthday cards. And that’s ok, because Finn can write his name and sound out other words to write when asked. The problem is all the white space on the rest of the card, which, as I’ve gathered from the cards Finn receives, is supposed to be filled by an original artwork of some sort, like a drawing. And so I’ll encourage Finn to draw something, and that’s when things get really scary.
Last weekend, as I watched him scribble yet another amorphous blob in a card for his friend Jordan, I was overcome, first by fear that there was something seriously wrong with my five-year old, and then, by the evil desire to grab the pen, draw something with my left foot, and pass it off as Finn’s handiwork. Resisting the urge, I instead suggested to Finn that he might like to draw another picture to accompany his first, which he did: the same picture that he has been drawing for a year now–a pictogram of a headless person holding a sword and shield.
He can’t even draw a person with a head!! And he will be six in 8 months! I felt my palms get sweaty as I watched him draw. But then I realized that it wasn’t really panic about Finn that I was feeling, but remembered trauma, from my first Studio Art class at college, when I had a charcoal pencil in my hand and no clue what to do with it. So I exhaled, and focused on the happy movement of Finn’s hands and the jaunty tilt of his head as he scribbled. He was thinking about his drawing and it meant something to him, even if it looked like ass to me.
My competitiveness wasn’t drummed into me by my parents, who, despite being Asian, were never stereotypically so. I want Finn to have drive, but I don’t want him to end up like me or Tom, who once threw a Trivial Pursuit board across the room after losing. I want my kids to be secure and content in the knowledge that things are worth doing, just to do them. In my office, I keep a clumsy drawing of a hat that I did in that first art class, to remind me of the same thing.
With Finn, I try to remember to praise the effort, not the result. And sometimes, after he’s finished something, he will grin at me and say this: “I worked so hard, mama!”
Sounds pretty sweet to me.