Friday, March 30, 2012

The Toxic Need for Approval

In trying to make myself feel like a better mom, I really blew it with my kids.

The thing about Lorelei and Gryffin is that, in many areas, they seem to lag behind their peers.  And I let it bother me.

While all the other girls in dance class do their perfect renditions of Swan Lake, Lorelei is chasing feathers from her boa and taking her twirl five seconds too late, skipping three other moves in the process.  At soccer, I actually overhear other parents of soccer stars criticizing my parenting (I don't practice with her enough) because she can't dribble (is that the right word??) as well as their daughters... in voices just loud enough to make sure I hear their disapproval.  A calculated attack.

While all the other boys are speaking in clear sentences and honing their fine motor skills with precision, Gryffy is struggling to put final consonants on his words, still doesn't use most contractions in speech, and hasn't even picked a hand to favor.  And while the other kids are writing their full names, he can barely write his first letter.

Don't get me wrong, my kids have plenty of strengths too--you'll never find more thoughtful, kind, loving kids.  Lorelei is doing excellent at her reading, memory verses, violin and art, and Gryffy has an imagination, knack for jumping all the way from the coffee table to the couch five feet away, and self-sufficiency that astounds me--he even wipes.  Yes, wipes.  And Gryffy, at 3, can almost ride his bike without me holding on.

The problem is, I get so caught up on the abilities my kids lack that I let comparison creep in, and I shame myself.  I hear this voice (yes, those soccer parents' voices) saying, "You don't do enough to teach them; it's your fault; if only you were a better parent."  And out of my own self-blame, I get frustrated... at my kids.

It reared its ugly head yesterday when I was trying so desperately hard to help Lorelei overcome her fear of riding a bike that I became overbearing.  She is so close, and yet it's the grip of fear that stops her every time.  I get mad about this.  Mad at her fear, yes, but mostly, mad that she doesn't measure up to my expectations (who's really afraid?), which I've adopted from the expectations and experiences of others.  She needs time, but I'm too begrudging to give it.  And what's meant to be a joy of childhood freedom becomes a battle that binds joy.  And it's not right.  And it's not good.

I apologized to Lorelei last night for being so demanding with the bike, gave her a hug, and told her I would work on being more kind and patient with her.  She didn't seem too battle worn, but my spirit ached inside of me. Why do I yearn so much for the approval of others?

Yesterday, I heard something that cut me to the quick.  Powerful words that spoke such truth that they stung me:


Can I get an Amen?! (Oh wait... I'm asking for approval again :o)

Today, I'm wading into those vulnerable waters, washing off my toxic need for approval, and restoring joy.  Because life's too short to worry about dribbling a damn soccer ball.


  1. It's Natalie McComas, and I love reading your blog. When it's time for my husband and I to have kids, I aspire to be a mom like you. From an outsider's perspective, and someone who has a very loving mom who would do anything for her, but also was at many times overbearing, whether Lorelei rides her bike by herself today or next month, will have no major impact (as in, negatively) on her life. It's hard to wrap your mind around that when you're in the midst of some people trying to bring you down, isn't it? Personally, I can't stop reading comments in news articles, even though they make my blood pressure shoot sky high. What negativity! And sometimes, when I (rarely) add my comment, people attack me. I've cried. Over stupid internet people that I don't even know. But I have to remember that has as much bearing on my life as what some spider in my backyard thinks of me, haha! Also, I didn't learn how to ride a bike until the 8th grade, and I still turned out okay.

  2. I hear you! And it's definitely part of the toxic culture, and a struggle not to participate. I'm competitive, and my non-competitive daughter can drive me up the wall... but it's not her problem; it's mine! I strongly recommend The Self Esteem Trap. Fabulous book that turned things around in our house!

  3. Wendy, I've known you for years now -
    And you've always carried the criticism of other people on your shoulders. The one thing I've never doubted about you (aside from the amazing way you treasure a friendship) is your love for your children and the way you mother. Your children are by far a million times better than any other child I know. They don't need to follow in anyone else's path - they create their own - all from your love and guidance. (I have a few things to say to those soccer moms!) Wendy, you are by far the best example of a mother I have ever seen. I only hope that one day I'll be able to be half the mother you are to your two little ones. Ignore the petty - and continue being you. You're too good for standards - just like your children. Love you and miss you!

  4. Amen, I completely understand. When my kids seem behind or different all I see is my lack of parenting. It is hard to remember that it doesn't really matter if our kids meet the world's standard of "normal". What matters is that we keep working to teach them at their pace and love then every step of the way. The ability to kick that soccer ball does not make a kind adult in the future so why stress on that stuff right!

  5. Thank you all so much for your kind comments! I didn't mean for so much of what I wrote to be focused on what a parent said at soccer (and it wasn't a mom, it was a dad, and the thing he said (several months ago!) was perfectly true and made a valid point about us needing to practice more... the problem was that I allowed it to sink it, and therefore the problem's not at all his, but mine). I appreciate all your encouragement; it's good to have friends like you.

  6. Pffft! Wendy, you are the most over-achieving parent I know! I am glad that if I have kids, they'll be waaay younger than yours so I won't be able to compare the many ways I'll fall short compared to your inspired, creative, loving parenting. (Yeah, I'll stick with the beagle. ;)) Seeking approval IS toxic, and it's SO hard to stop doing ... but I know you'll always re-center and find the approval you need - in your kids' love.