I do, we do, have the vertiginous responsibility of raising two little humans (soon 2 and 4 years old). When they run around the apartment half-naked, roaring, and chasing each other, it is sometimes easy to forget how serious our job is. Or maybe it is not, and we should just take it easy.
Never before have I had such a humbling and rewarding role to take on: preparing these two souls to navigate and build their Tomorrow. For this, I am grateful we are two, it makes this adventure more enjoyable to share and less insurmountable at times.
Molding kids around one’s own life expectations is quite an easy trap ; giving them the right tools so they can be whoever they want demands more attention.
After thousands of hours conversing, Kev and I came to the conclusion that if we had one thing to watch out and nurture, the pillar of it all, the one precious trait that has been mistreated for way too long while being at the core of any human initiative (as if each time you tried to stand up someone was giving you a strong kick in the legs), one that makes us do wonders or -if absent for too long- feel miserable and full of traumas. Yep, it would be confidence.
Confidence is a very rare trait.
By confidence, hear faith in oneself, no matter what.
Some people can act with assurance in a given area of their life, yet the overall confidence of having faith in oneself is very, very uncommon. I have developed a pretty accurate detector over the years :) I find these people interesting, inspiring - and yes!- attractive. And I am fortunate to be surrounded by a handful of them. These confident individuals do not please everyone though. People tend to associate ‘confidence’ with ‘ego’, but I believe that’s partly because envy’s calling the shots. I know, because I once was this envious person.
Kev is a gifted specimen. I thought that his freckles were what made me fall for him. That’s partly true. His genuine confidence is probably the one thing I felt in love with and have kept loving each day since. A trait I -surpriiise- had little of when I met him, but have learnt to recover from, essentially through my entrepreneurial journey and through well-intentioned friendships. But, seriously!? What a waste! What can be done to avoid having to recuperate your atrophied confidence years later?
I am convinced kids are born with a capital of self-confidence through the roof, and that society (=us humans) tears it down, peeling the onion of self-love one layer after another as a weird, cynical rite of passage. Teasing and criticism often target who you are and not what you do. This is dangerous. I believe dissociating the action from the self is crucial to keep nurturing one’s confidence.
“You are mean” => “This action is mean”
"You are a capricious kid” => “You are angry right now”
“You are smart” => “This action is smart”
The last example is tricky yet as important as the first two. Just think about failures. When they occur (they will), you want to avoid the disillusionment “Wait, what?! I’ve been told I was smart my whole life? What’s going on with me? Am I just a fraud?” and the sometimes irreparable consequences on their confidence.
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How to raise confident kids? I don’t have the answer. I am navigating motherhood with wonder and curiosity, pretty decided to help my kids cultivate the below traits, as I see them having a strong impact on the overall faith-in-oneself. WIP!
Curiosity is about showing oneself vulnerable. Yet it is the condition to be confident.
A person very close to me hates the idea of being at a -professional- gathering with people she does not know anything about. “I don’t know what to say”. This sentence made me think a lot. I used to feel that too. Not anymore. What changed?
I think I shifted the obsession from me “what am I gonna share/tell/say/..” to the other “what does s.he know that I don’t”, and this lifted a weight off my mind. Suddenly, I didn’t need to worry so much about finding the most appealing, exciting, fun, successful story -sometimes to the point I wasn’t even listening to the discussion anymore: I just needed to ask questions that genuinely interested me, and pay attention to the answers. Of course this requires to show myself vulnerable: I do not know, sure. But this is a win-win. I end up learning a bunch of stuff. And that person usually ends up thinking highly of me (or maybe not but I don’t care). People love to talk about their life and experience. I love that too. Sometimes, that person will keep talking about him.her. Sometimes it will be more balanced. It doesn’t even matter.
Kids are naturally curious. Our oldest has been asking “why” questions for a few months. It is very humbling to realize that regularly, you have no clue what the answer is. And it is quite fun to say “I don’t know, let’s find out”. Let’s be two kids on a treasure hunt! Maybe our parent job here is a minimal intervention to preserve curiosity. Welcoming this curiosity with vulnerability. Showing them that not knowing is cool, and the trigger to a great deal of knowledge.
There is a compounding effect of being genuinely curious your whole life. If you’ve developed interests in a broad area of topics for a lifetime, you are going to think faster and deeper, question the status quo a lot, and become a very interesting person to talk to. You’re going to build confidence. So instead of worrying so much about what you are about to say, worry about letting your curiosity wander. People love to talk. Let’s learn to ask and listen.
(OK, at times you’ll see me not that curious. It’s usually because I am tired - or lazy.)
Loving to seek effort and embrace challenges.
The proudest, most rewarding moments of my life are the results of a (very often long) effort, whether physical, entrepreneurial or emotional: nurturing a little human inside me and giving birth, twice ; reaching the top of Flatiron #1 at dark with rockstar filmmaker Pete while being total rock-climbing rookies, eating instant noodles for two years, burning my savings in an attempt to build our first company and finally bringing our team to some of the most challenging and inspiring weeks ever, launching our second venture during the pandemic, while pregnant of our second kiddo, but also taking my relationships to the next level, with my partner, my co-founder, and my friends.
I owe my parents a big deal here. Very early on, they forced us on long mountain hikes and demanding bike adventures (“What’s the point of climbing up that col… to bike it down, dad?!”). Now I get it. To savor each sip of happy moment that comes at you. And trust yourself you can do it. Confidence.
Giving without expecting anything back.
The second part of the sentence is just as important as the first one. Call it karma or however you’d like. I find that often, people are not genuinely kind because they are haunted with scarcity : “If I am being kind, I am being fucked”. I believe we would all be better off playing the abundance score. Just like you can love all of your kids equally, the kindness pie is infinite.
Having a kind word for my neighbor, inquiring on a friend’s emotional state, giving a compliment to someone random, greeting the bus driver, all these are free of charge yet will make my happiness level go through the roof. Our kids, with their short experience, already know a great deal of how to please others with little acts of kindness, no need to teach them anything. Maybe we can just help them notice how cool it feels to do something nice for somebody - as long as they consent, it goes without saying uh.
Shit will hit the fan -love this poetic expression- What are you gonna do?
Resourcefulness triggers positive circles. Just like a muscle I am trying to train. The more I play that game, the better I become good at it and the less I will be impacted by things going south. Of course I can cry and scream loud. But then? Then I’d better flip the coin and find a solution. Sometimes that solution is just OK but it is my best option. My tradeoff.
We’ve made it a clear statement to embrace this attitude in front of our kids. No later than last week, our school holiday plans felt through and we had to come up with something as exciting as a ski holiday yet on a budget. We knew it wouldn’t be perfect but we did find the resources to make it happen, ‘selling’ this new plan as something even better to our two little ones. They bought it. We did too.
Confidence we’re gonna make it. I owe Kev a big deal here.
Sleep wherever. Eat whatever. Move whenever.
There is beauty in reading a situation and being able to adapt, quickly. We’ve trained that skill for a dozen years, moving to another country every couple of months/year. A very convenient illustration is my (maybe-stupid-I-reckon) refusal to use an airplane pillow ever. Beware of getting too comfortable! I kept telling myself.
Of course, routines are a pillar of stability, especially with young kids, I can’t vouch for it enough. Meanwhile, helping them train the skill of sleeping in a new room -be it at their grand parents’, a friend’s house, a guest house- with just one or two anchors -theirs are a cuddly toy and a soft, pocket-size light that switches off after 15 min. Super handy!- is helping them gain confidence in themselves. “Yes, I can sleep wherever. By myself.”
I owe my parents here, for they taught us to travel light, especially during hiking bivouacs were we’d eat seeds and a can of ravioli, washing in lakes with a washcloth as a towel - still teasing our mom with that today…
6. Resilience through failures
“I never lose. I either win or I learn.” Mandela
Failures, with a capital F! You have so much to teach us. Yet we are learning how to run away from you from a very young age - who said school?!- Quite ironically though, because well, just watch a 12-month old kiddo try to stand and walk for the 1,657th time to reckon there is no great win without many failed attempts. I have read the book Les vertus de l’échec two years ago. I think this is a must-read for anyone uncomfortable with failures - yup, I am looking at you most certainly :) Pretty much every biopic of an entrepreneurial, sportive, or political journey is a series of failures that made a person resilient and successful in their own way.
I owe entrepreneurship a big deal here. Certainly not school.
I don’t think there is anything like a perfect recipe to raise happy, confident kids. So much is out of my, out of our control, as parents. Yet I have written all the above as a commitment to myself to try my best and keep walking the talk. Also, to see where I stand, where we stand, a few years down the road.
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To my B & E: maybe the most important skill is to learn how to surround yourself with the right people, who will challenge you and love you unconditionally. I wish you both, my boys, to live the life you want. A good health, too. The rest will follow. Love you ✨
Great read 😻 thanks @mathilde