by Christy Gualtieri
I looked up from my task of picking toys up off the floor to my three-year-old son, who was standing out in our backyard by his tee-ball stand with a large plastic softball perched at the top, calling to me.
“Mom!” He repeated. “Be a customer.” (A “customer” is what he calls “a sports fan” – too cute at this age to correct!) He wanted me to cheer for him, and I stood up, ready to watch (and somehow manage to keep an eye on his baby sister at the same time, as well).
Large hollow plastic bat in hand, he stepped up to the tee, hit the ground twice in preparation, stuck his tongue between his lips in concentration, and swung. He hit the base of the tee and the ball jutted out into the grass, a decent hit. He looked over at me, a shy smile on his face, and I cheered.
“Yay! Great job, buddy! Run the bases!” He started running in a straight line and then circled back, happier that I had cheered for him than for his hitting the ball.
He fetched the ball and ran back to set it up again, and it struck me, the power of approval. It means so much to him that I think he’s doing a good job. I know, as a parent, the power my approval has when it comes to my children. And I like to think that we grow out of it, the burning desire to know that we are doing the right thing in the eyes of those who love us. But the truth is, I know I haven’t.
As much as I would like to get rid of this particular habit, I find that I run more than a few decisions through others before acting on them. I might ask a friend for advice, or call my father. I check and double-check online articles and my go-to social media sites. I ask my husband what he would do in a similar situation a lot of the time. And while there’s nothing wrong with seeking advice, I do find myself wondering how much my own voice matters when it comes to the things I do.
I want to teach my children to seek my approval, but not become so dependent on it that they can’t think for themselves. I want them to ask my advice and take the things I have to say into consideration, but I want them to be strong enough in their own convictions to trust themselves and to follow their own hearts. It’s hard to teach those things while struggling with them at the same time!
But I’m learning, even trying to use my son’s favorite pastime as a mental reminder. When I’m faced with a decision, I picture myself going to bat…for myself. I can picture myself getting ready, heading to the tee, preparing myself to take action. And I picture myself running the bases, feeling the cheers I give myself, giving myself the encouragement I need to try again. It sounds silly, but checking in with myself in this way is a small step I can take to remind myself that what I think matters, even if right now it matters a bit less than what other people think.
Small steps! I wish them for you, too.
Until next time, be well!
Christy Gualtieri is a freelance writer specializing in pop culture, religion, and motherhood. She lives in Pittsburgh with her husband and son, blogs at asinglehour.wordpress.com, and tweets @agapeflower117. Follow PghPsych on Facebook and Twitter for daily updates, inspirational quotes, articles, and different events and causes related to good mental health!