Be yourself, don’t take anyone’s shit, and never let them take you alive.

29 Apr

She stops me in the hall as we leave.

“Are you Vivian’s Mom?”

I’ll admit that,  considering my scholastic history, these words have a tendency to stop me in my tracks, recalling that the only points in which these types of words were asked tended to be ones also including the words “suspension” or “detention”. Vivian also recently managed to break the collarbone of a friend so bad that the radiologists questioned the parents about abuse, so I’m a little on edge at the school.

“All day long!” I crowed, patting Vivian on the head.

At this point the teacher grinned and stopped walking. She stretched a soft hand out to me, and smiled wider.

“I’m her french teacher. And I just have to talk to you about how smart she is! She’s so brilliant-she has an ear for the french! She’s picking it up quickly. Smart as a whip this one.”

I know these things so I smile, feeling that warm glow inside that roughly translates to “holyshitmykidissoawesome!Ihaven’tscrewedherupthatbad!WOO!”.

“You really need to think about immersion in Grade 3.” she tells me “She’s pretty far ahead of a lot of the other kids anyway-it would be good for her. ”

She bends at the knee next to Viv. “Can you show your Mom how good you are? Comment ca va? Vivian?”

Viv turns her face into me, suddenly shy. I laugh.

“Vivian, you have an audience, and I totally want to see! What gives.”

“I’m too shy.” she states, blushing.

I smile at the teacher, tell her we’ll spend some extra time with the french english dictionary this week, thank her. We walk outside as I ask Vivian why she’s afraid to show me she’s good at something.

“Cause it embarrasses me.”

I can’t help it. From my mouth flies

“If you were a boy, you would not be ashamed to be good at something. And this world you’re growing up into, you NEED to be proud of what you do. You SHOULD be proud of being good at things. Don’t ever be ashamed of being good at something.”

She tries to shrug my words off.

“Vivian. This matters more than I can explain. Be proud of you.”

She mumbles yes, and runs off to the playground, leaving me holding her bag.


I can’t take a compliment. Never could.

Someone says they like my writing, I feel conflicted. Should I acknowledge it? Should I ignore it? Does it mean anything?

Someone tells me I look pretty. I blush and feel perplexed.

Maybe they like my cooking. I downplay it, say it’s easy.

I do not want this for my daughters. I want them to feel pride in themselves. I want them to be proud when their abilities are acknowledged. I want them to never, ever be afraid to say “Yes, I AM good at something.”

But how, in a world where she’s already internalized that pride is something to be ashamed of, that talent should be hidden, do I teach her this? I am slowly learning to be able to say sometimes that yes, I am able and good. I can turn a phrase, occasionally. I can good a mean tagine or puff pastry dinner. I can learn quickly new skills. I am unafraid to try. I will push myself to try new things, past that burning in my belly of worry.

But how do I make sure she knows that a little ego, a little fire in her own belly is a good thing?


She runs through the school yard, unfettered by any of my worries. In her world, she’s the fastest runner, well, except for Josh she might tell me. She’s a great reader, but she won’t lord it over any other kid. She yells when I ask about boyfriends, becomes quiet when I ask about girls. She runs through the house in her new black boots, kicking ass and taking names. Her grin is like a new moon rising over the countryside.

I can’t trap her here, but dammit if I don’t want to try.


14 Responses to “Be yourself, don’t take anyone’s shit, and never let them take you alive.”

  1. sweetsalty kate April 29, 2010 at 9:05 am #

    Ahh, bellyfire. Yes! Beautiful.

  2. Misty April 29, 2010 at 9:50 am #

    I was in french immersion. I was embarrassed to talk french in front of my mom too. Never did. She still asks. It made my school world and home world collide in a way I didn’t like a guess. I wasn’t ashamed though, instead secretly proud.

    Good for her!!!

  3. Linda April 29, 2010 at 10:45 am #

    I do love your writing. Why can’t women accept compliments? Say to any woman, I love that bracelet” and she will respond, “This old thing? CHEAP! Got it at Salvation Army…” I am old (fifties) and have finally learned to accept compliments by saying, “Thank you” and nothing more.

    Tough to do but it honors the compliment better than refuting it which inadvertently is insulting.

    Good to discuss with your children particularly girls because there is a different standard with the genders. If linked to good manners it can be easier.

    I do love your blog which requires no response from you :-))


  4. Shana April 29, 2010 at 11:20 am #

    This is such an awesome entry.

    Please don’t take this as a lecture, as it is not meant to be one: There is a lot of truth in the statement that kids learn by parents’ behavior, not by their preachings. The way to get daughters to become proud of themselves is for them to watch their mothers actively being proud of themselves.

    So when someone compliments your cooking, say, “Thank you!” instead of saying, “Oh, it’s nothing. It’s easy.” When someone tells you how beautiful you are, again, “Thank you” is actually a more kind and welcomed response than, “No I’m not.”

    Brag about yourself a little. Act in the way you would like your daughters to act. Be happy and PROUD of yourself, the wonderful woman you are!!!

    • thordora April 29, 2010 at 12:05 pm #

      oh I know. It’s soooooo hard to overcome that knee jerk reaction, like Linda said, to downplay our talents. I’m getting better, but somedays it’s still like I have to hit myself with something to remember. I ran through a list of things I’m good at with her, and had her tell me some.

      Sometimes I wonder if my efforts will be enough tho…

  5. trinity67 April 29, 2010 at 12:28 pm #

    It all starts with you.

    I grew up being told that I was wonderful and talented and could do anything I wanted to but the reality was that everyone else’s feelings came first, and as long as I behaved in a way that made everyone else feel good, I was good enough.

    Nobody told me that though…that lessonw was completely unspoken and I think I learned it by watching the grown-ups around me, tip-toeing around other grown-ups. I had no power.

    My therapist and her doing E.M.D.R. was extremely helpful for me. Medication, talking, writing things out and making a conscious choice to be in touch with my feelings also helps.

    I now know that I’m more than good enough and that’s the majority of the time.

  6. magpie April 29, 2010 at 4:14 pm #

    That whole middle section? I know that so well. I haven’t yet had to try and prop up my kid, but somehow, I expect to have to.

  7. angelynn April 30, 2010 at 2:47 am #

    I know what you mean. I look at my sons who are only 2 and 4 and I don’t ever want them to go through what I did growing up. I’ve always been painfully shy, depressed, and self-conscious. Just recently I’ve started trying to break out of my shell. Mainly for me, but for them too.

    It bugs me when I can’t take a compliment. When someone says they like my shirt I’ll belt out “Yeah, I got it for like $2 at Target.” As soon as the words come out I wonder why in the hell I would say something like that. Then I feel lame and like I put the person complimenting me down and on, and on. It’s a nasty little cycle.

    It’s wonderful that your daughter is doing well in school. I hope she becomes as proud of it as you are. Your writing is beautiful as well.

  8. schmutzie April 30, 2010 at 5:56 pm #

    This weblog is being featured on Five Star Friday!

  9. afteriris May 2, 2010 at 12:43 pm #

    This very thing has been playing on my mind lately. I’m British, so culturally I’ve been educated in self-deprecation to the point of self-flagellation. I actually find myself downplaying my children’s achievements to others out of fear that by ‘bigging them up’ I might make them unlikeable, or that by accepting a compliment on their behalf I’m somehow being immodest in myself.

    So, there it is. Crappy parenting direct from the UK.

    btw there was a fab post on Kate Harding about this, I’m not sure if you read her:

  10. Hannah May 3, 2010 at 2:40 pm #

    Yes, yes, YES.

    I have really had to work hard at taking compliments graciously… I still find it difficult, but I’m working at it every day. Because I want my boys to be proud, too.

  11. bipolarlawyercook May 6, 2010 at 8:46 am #

    Long time, no comment (sorry, been so busy, what with being batshit crazy and all)– but nicely said, and even yesterday I had that conversation with my therapist about still being that inner fat kid who can’t make conversation at parties– even as I’m 36 and the thinnest I’ve ever been.

    It sounds like you’re trying, and bolstering, the best that you can. It’s been a long time since I’ve read you regularly (too long) but when I did, even then I knew you were a mom who cared deeply that your kids KNOW they were loved and could do anything and accomplish anything because you BELIEVED, damnit.

    That still shines through in your writing.

    • thordora May 7, 2010 at 5:49 pm #

      you! Hi! I hope you’ve been well. And thank you. 🙂

  12. Holly May 10, 2010 at 11:00 am #

    It IS embarrassing to speak another language around English speakers!! Kids of all types are shy. Besides that, there is something about language where they don’t get that it’s something that can be shown off — we’ve had some extensive experience with this (living in Spanish speaking countries, both kids in French immersion school for 2 years now, etc.) and my kids, for example, simply do not get that their language abilities are skills. The more comfortable or in command they gets, the more willingly they use it, though — Will (in 1st grade) now that he is reading and writing in French, he’ll read to his sister, sing us songs, etc. Kate responds to her brother, though she is still quite young and figuring out where all the different words and sounds go and mean. So maybe it will come in time with your daughter. From friends who have taken their kids to Francophone countries during the summer says it takes about a week for the kids to be willing to use their French, to get over the “embarrassment” of it — and this is universal among their experiences.

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