I’m Starting with the Mom in the Mirror

There’s a book called Mindset by Carol Dewck.  It’s becoming widely read by educators, and many parents. A friend of mine just wrote an awesome piece about it here.  The idea of cultivating a growth mindset has been popping up for me, beginning with a consultant at my boys’ school handing me the book three years ago. I put it off, being busy and all, and I think I actually over-borrowed her book by a year or something.  Oops!  So I finally read it, and the gist is that we can choose to have a fixed mindset or a growth mindset.  You can change your way of thinking, and you can choose to try hard at things that aren’t easy.  Of course there is much more to it, and you should pick up that book.

This seemed like a really simple concept, and I pshawed the idea that needed to change my mindset.  Of course I had a growth mindset! My mind has had a lot of attention!  I spent my late teens and twenties working on myself, understanding how I worked, and I came pretty darn far with that, thankyouverymuch.  I needed those years for that.  My mindset was solid.  It was my kids who needed some help here, not me.

The last couple of years brought parent-teacher conferences where I heard that my boys were awesome, except they needed to learn to persevere when things didn’t come easily right away.  I would heavy sigh, internally blame it on Latefordinner, and say “I don’t know where they get that!” That’s not how I do things!  And I work on it with them.  I take them for very long hikes in the woods and make them figure out how to get back, dragging them for miles when they want to quit.  I make them do chores for screen time, teaching them new chores and following through with my rules.  I use the mantra my parents used: “You can do hard things!” I make them problem solve, forcing them to figure things out before I help them. But the desire to work hard still doesn’t seem to be ingrained in their psyche, in their mindset.

The other day Tuna got a new Transformer.  He was frustrated because it wasn’t easy, and Latefordinner wouldn’t help him.  He reminded him that he used to get frustrated when he was four (he’s almost 11 now), but now he had to big-kid-up and figure it out.  Tuna carried that thing around with him all day, working and working on it until he could transform that thing in 10 seconds.  And he did it!  He was so proud of himself.

Then he came to me and wanted ME to try it.

Asking me to do Transformers is like asking me to sew something–I might throw a tantrum and smash stuff.  I have avoided Transformers for seven years now, passing them off on Latefordinner, because I CAN’T DO THEM. I HATE doing them, and no one is going to make me!!

So I wouldn’t do it.  I actually snapped at him  and asked why he even wanted me to do it.  Did he think it was funny that I’m not mechanically inclined?  Did he want to watch me fail? No, I wouldn’t do it.  I don’t sew, and I don’t do Transformers.  I had the fixed mindset that I couldn’t do Transformers, and I refused to try something hard. I told Tuna I would not try.  Now, there are some things in life we just don’t have to do as adults–taxes, sewing, washing cars, dishes…oh wait, gotta do those. BUT, when my child came to me and wanted me to try his Transformer, it was an opportunity to teach him how to do hard things.  I stomped my foot and refused!

The whole thing didn’t sit right with me. I knew I was being hypocritical and childish. I almost blew my opportunity to model the growth mindset. …..until I realized what I was doing.  I took me a day, actually.  Once the lightbulb went off–I think it was Latefordinner’s account of telling Tuna to work hard that flipped the switch– I went to him and asked him to teach me, and to be patient with me. I explained that I really should work harder on the things that don’t come easily.

It turns out he is an excellent teacher!  And, I was a pretty good student.  Transformers are hard when you’re me.  I can do hard things.

How many other times had I unknowingly taught him not to try?  How to quit?  How to not even begin?? How many other opportunities have I blown?


The good news is that Tuna (10), Binker (6), and Squishy (3) are still young enough to catch on, and they’ll have minimal damage.  I am always brought back to the mirror in parenting.  I used to call Tuna my little mirror–he shows me the truth of who I am–he is a reflection of me.  Somewhere along the chaotic way I lost that, (I think because it’s a bit overwhelming to see three different perspectives of your own reflection, like a three-way mirror), and this has been a shining reminder to do some inward reflecting.  It’s the same concept as putting on your own oxygen mask first before helping others–how can I grow their mindsets if I’m in denial about my own?  I’ve spent too much time projecting, not realizing that I’ve been giving away my opportunities for growth. Mindsets, like reflections, are never solid. We are never ever done growing. Who was I to think I didn’t need to change?  I really hope to hear some hard work reports at conferences this year.

This parenting gig is hard! Good thing I can do hard things.







Oldness and Irony and Fiber

I just stayed up til midnight on a weeknight watching “Reality Bites”.  Let’s just call that my midlife crisis and move on.  Okey dokey.  Glad I got that over with.

So tonight I really just wanted to watch HGTV for a while and go to bed, but the kids had freaking Nick Jr. on and that turns into Nick mom at night and those tv people know the channel will still be on when the actual owner of the remote has control again and all the moms who watch it are 30 something and finally sitting down after schlepping kids and/or working all day and a throwback movie like “Reality Bites” is just beginning and they know they’ve GOT you because OMG I remember this movie and it’s been 20 years or some shit and there is some evil hunched millionaire rubbing his hands together saying “it’s genius, just look at all of those 30 somethings not even realizing that they’re having a midlife crisis” and wondering what ever happened to Ethan Hawke and he really is still awkwardly hot in this movie and why the hell doesn’t Winona Ryder EAT and look at little Ben Stiller and I LOVE JANEANE GAROFALO (yes, I had to look up how to spell Janeane Garofalo).

One of the lines in the movie is a woman asking Winona the definition of Irony.  Well, it’s getting pissed off that I stayed up so late for a stupid movie and then writing a blegh entry about it which keeps me up way later.

I have been feeling old lately.  I have new lines in my face that the spring sun is revealing, the girls in my class (I go to school, for those of you who don’t know) are celebrating their friends’ 21st birthdays, and I just watched a movie on Nickmom.  Also, I just watched more commercials in the last two hours than I have in the last 15 years.  I watched commercials for Sketchers, Hair shit, weight loss shit, ABC mouse, Clorox bleach, pee pads, and fucking fiber bars.  Dude, OLD. (And I know a lot of you reading are older than I am, so just humor me on this.  I’m just bleghing…and 30 something crisising…it will pass in a minute and I’ll be all bouncy again.)  

I never watch commercials!  I have received clear confirmation tonight that I have been correct in avoiding them all these years.  Am I supposed to need more fiber??  And what’s wrong with my hair?  And I suddenly feel so fat!  Total inadequacy.  All I need now is a Cosmo magazine and my soul will be sufficiently squashed.  It’s interesting that the movie was about finding yourself and being true to yourself and your intelligence and knowing who matters in life, and then you have to watch commercials about becoming skinnier and prettier and your four-year-old needs ABC mouse because he’s not smart enough and now you and your kid suck.  Irony.

So, now that I have that crisis out of my system, I solemnly swear that I will be up late reading a book tomorrow night instead of letting mainstream media control my soul.  And it’s not just because I have to read it for school, really.  (It’s because Ethan Hawke had a book in his hand in almost every scene and OMG reading is hot.)  And now I will return to my usual happy intelligent good enough 30 something programming.