Monday, 25 November 2013

Self-Confidence and How to Lose It

Self-confidence, I always thought, is one of the gifts of middle age. Through my timid teens and twenties I looked forward to the day when I could stride forth in my polyknits, oblivious to public opinion. And that day almost dawned. No longer do I delay pressing the button on pelican crossings in case drivers are inconvenienced by stopping for me. I am equal to ordering dinner guests to leave by 10.30pm so I can get to bed on time and am comfortable bearing a bumper pack of loo roll up the street from the Co-op.

There was a fatal flaw in my theory, however. With middle age come children and there is nothing like an adolescent daughter to make you see yourself in your true colours. 'Have you thought that it could be YOUR fault?' cries the 11-year-old when I ask her to stop shouting. I pause to reflect and I realise that, yes, I am sadly culpable as a mother.

It is my fault that my scarf doesn't match my red beret, thus inflicting needless humiliation on the walk to school. It is my fault that I delay the arrival home by 'sliming slowly along like a slug' because I have burdened myself with all the school bags. It is my fault that pocket money is withheld for an unkempt room because 'you can't expect me to do chores when I'm resting' and it is undeniably my 'horrible mean selfishness' that enforces swimming lessons, punctual bedtimes and green vegetables.

Occasionally I study my reflection in the Vicar's shaving mirror.  I try to recognise, under the layers of hemp cream that shore up my complexion, the woman who embarked on motherhood with such good intentions. Instead I see myself through my daughter's eyes, an ungroomed matron shrilling reminders and recriminations.

I decide to help restore harmony by reforming myself. I shall coordinate my winter wear whenever haste and temperature allow; I shall leave the kids to carry their own burdens and stride home with Olympian grace and I shall stop nagging over childish deficiencies and find ways to make domestic duties and vegetables a happy bonding experience. Heck, I might even brush my hair before morning drop-off.

But no sooner have I resolved this than I realise my imperfections are too deeply embedded and that no amount of good intentions can redeem me. Because...'I wish that I was mixed race,' laments my daughter, braiding her wet hair for the Afro look. 'Why couldn't you have been born black?'

Do children boost your confidence?

18 comments:

  1. On a bad day, certainly my children make me feel better, which boosts my confidence. I am happy that all our children chose higher education (one has just graduated) vs jail, okay they weren't at any time close to going to jail, but it still makes me feel better to think about it.

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    1. Now you mention it, my kids have so far escaped a brush with the law, so yes, there's a reason to feel cocky!

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  2. They say the road to hell is paved with those good intentions and I know exactly what that means!

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  3. I took my 10yo daughter to the dentist this morning, without drying my hair first. So I walked in wearing a ridiculously oldfashioned wooly hat, no make-up on and dripping wet hair. It wasn't so much my embarassed daughter (I deal with that on a daily basis), but the perfectly groomed dentist (at least fifteen years younger than me) that made me feel like an old hag. Gosh when did doctors, dentists, orthodontist all become so young and good looking???

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    1. I wish you were at our school gate where everyone else is groomed and coiffed. The 11yo didn't want to be seen with me today because I looked 'skanky'. I also wish I had a good looking dentist!

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  4. My daughter actually refused a McDonalds as a treat for getting her braces off because she was afraid there may be people she knew in there and she didn't want to be seen with me ...

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  5. Great post! I constantly find I'm apologising to my son, for whatever unintentional deed or comment sent into a tail spin. Which in turn makes me feel humiliated. Then he states you always say you're sorry, but you need to mean it!?

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    1. I probably don't say sorry enough - or even at all. And I don't make the 11yo say it enough either so nothing is ever fully resolved.

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    2. I am Canadian. Apparently, (according to our US neighbours) we are guilty of being too mannerly and apologise even when it's not necessary! That's my excuse.

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    3. I apologise cravenly to strangers who cross me but not to my own flesh and blood!

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  6. I think you should found a charity for Abused Mothers. I'm sure there's some Lottery funding out there you could tap into.

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  7. Were you horrible to your mother? Is this retribution? I think we need a post on this subject.

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    1. As far as I know I was always a biddable child. In fact my mother longed - and still longs - for me to break out and live wild in a micro mini.

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  8. I fear you have embarked on a losing battle. But I'm sure that in years to come you will laugh together about that red beret and clashing scarf. Or at least she will anyway..

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  9. Howling with laughter at this. Even though she is only three, my child has a similar way with words: "What's that hair Mummy? You need to shave." and "I like your chin Mummy, it's nice and wobbly here" being just two recent classics.

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  10. Oh dear, that made my laugh. I'm so grateful that I'm going through the tween years with my boys before my daughter!

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