October 12th, 2010

Mini Me

Linda Kennard

Of my three children, Tanner is most like me. It’s not that he looks like me (although he does), or that he inherited my bad teeth (as they all did), or that he (like me) sings the same small portions of songs that get stuck in his head. No, it’s aspects of Tanner’s nature that I recognize as reflections of me.

Tanner, like me, is a hard worker. If I want something done—the dishes washed, the bathroom cleaned—Tanner’s my man. Ask him to put the dishes in the dishwasher, and he’ll do that and scrub the cutting board. Ask him to wipe out the sink, and he breaks out the gloves and disinfectant and washes the mirror while he’s at it. Tanner works tirelessly to do not only what’s been asked but to go beyond what’s expected. It’s in his nature, as it is in mine.

This might seem a lovely trait, but I know something that Tanner doesn’t yet understand: his bent toward perfection is fueled by his need for external approval. Tanner lives for pats on the head, big smiles that say, “Good job! You’re amazing!” Whatever pride he feels fades if the person from whom he was expecting that big smile gives him only a nod. So if he shows me his perfectly drawn copy of a Picasso self portrait or greets BigG on the landing with the A+ on his science exam and we don’t respond with the level of praise he envisioned, he doubts his success. I recognize this sad trait; it’s mine.

I’ve talked with Tanner about this. I tell him that no matter what anyone else says or doesn’t say, his successes are worthy of his own feelings of satisfaction. But he doesn’t get it and will likely spend his childhood feeling like no matter what he does, it’s not good enough. He’ll feel this way because no matter what he does, no one can give him as much positive reinforcement as he craves.

I know what he’s feeling; I felt it too. As late as graduate school, I remember hanging up the phone, disappointed in my dad’s reaction to whatever academic achievement I’d called to report. Until I learned to revel in my own accomplishments, nothing that anyone else said or did was ever enough. I want to work my way inside Tanner’s head to tweak whatever neuron resides there that afflicts him with this trait that is my own. But I can only watch, talk and hope that someday he’ll hear me.

Once when Tanner was two, I held him on my hip while nervously making my way down a steep, rocky mountainside at dusk. One chubby hand bounced in front of him with each of my footsteps and the other patted my back. “It’s okay Mom,” he kept saying. “I got you.” Now, nine years later, I go to him equally powerless but no less sincere, “It’s okay Tanner, my little man. I’ve got you.” I get you.

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This Weeks Tip

We did a review a while ago of dry shampoo. Here’s an alternative when you don’t have time to wash, but want to get rid of the oily-ness. Sprinkle some baking soda on your hair, comb through then quickly fluff your hair with a blow dryer. (note: You can also add a little scented baby powder to keep your hair smelling clean!)