I bought my oldest daughter a diary for Christmas. She’s almost 9, so I thought it sounded like a fun gift. As it turns out, not so much. It caused more stress than I ever anticipated was possible. “Mom, what do you do with a diary? I don’t get it.” My response, “Just write anything honey. There are no rules. Have fun with it.” After a very lengthy and not fun discussion, I finally tell her to just put it in a drawer and forget about it for awhile. Seriously, I did not intend for this to cause so much worry and distress. It’s a diary for Christ’s sake.
She is a rule follower and has very little confidence on most days. She wants specific instructions on how to do anything because she is convinced and/or worried that she is going to do it wrong. I know what you are thinking and you are wrong. I am not the type of mom that gets on her case about every little thing. If anything, I do the opposite. Minimize everything! Nothing is that important…unless the house is on fire. That’s pretty important and worthy of an exaggerated response, but nothing else.
I don’t know how to teach self-confidence. I really wish I did. She needs a crash course STAT. She has so much potential, but she worries about everything. She doesn’t want to disappoint anyone, including herself. The truth is, I am not overflowing with confidence either, but I am really good at faking it. Unfortunately, I don’t know how to teach that either. I was just born with the ability to fake things (No bedroom pun intended.). It’s a gift.
It doesn’t help that the diary came with a lock and key either. That surely means that whatever is written in it must be of extreme importance, thereby requiring intense thought, a detailed outline, and several edits prior to transcribing the final draft onto its golden pages using only your absolute best handwriting. “Dear Lord, give me patience.”
I try to make it as simple as possible. “You can write about anything you want.” I give examples. “Write about what you did today, or what you did not do today, or how you are feeling or not feeling about any specific or nonspecific thing. It doesn’t matter what you write about. No one else will read it.”
“You’re not going to read it Mom?”
“No honey, it’s your private journal. Mommy won’t read it. I promise.”
A very disappointed look on my daughter’s face follows, very clearly translating into, “Why wouldn’t you want to read something that I wrote Mom?” O.M.G. Shoot me.
“Okay honey, I will read it if you want me to, but only if you give me permission first. Okay?”
Several weeks pass with the empty diary buried deep in one of her nightstand drawers, until one night she decides to dig it out. The events leading up to this brave and spontaneous act involve a mildly unpleasant exchange between she and her father regarding, what else, bedtime. More specifically, it was bedtime, and she did not want to go to bed. Daddy has a zero tolerance rule for dealing with bullshit at bedtime. It goes something like this, “It’s bedtime, I love you, goodnight, and don’t even think about getting out of your bed (3 minutes or less).” In and out every god damn night. He is my hero.
And so out came the diary for her first entry…
Dear Diary, “My Dad yelled at me.” I swear that’s all I read and it was an accident. I was trying really hard not to look. All I could think was, “Yes! Success! This is exactly what you should write in your diary. Get shit off your chest! Well done grasshopper.”
Her second entry came shortly thereafter following a similar argument, only this time both her Dad and I were involved, and of course it was bedtime. Same scenario. She was not happy. “I need to write in my diary Mom.” All I could think was, “You better not even think about writing anything negative about me in there. I carried you around in my womb for 9 months and it wasn’t exactly pleasant giving birth to you either…not to mention the gross hernia that I carry around now as a result. More importantly, I gave that damn diary to you, and I WILL take it away!”
Of course I didn’t say that. Instead I quickly resort to methods of reverse psychology and say out loud as she begins to write, “Dear Diary, My mom is SO mean!”
She smiles, I smile, and then I smile again knowing that I have cleared my name and that this time I am off the hook. Probably not her Dad though, but he could care less. He’s already downstairs in his recliner, scrolling twitter and having a beer.
Everyone’s a winner.