The gift I don’t want to give

It’s my daughter’s birthday today. She’s now 14 years old, bright, sassy and as good as you can get for a teenager. In most ways, she’s just like me but with good attributes from her mother running through her too, which is a good mix.

I’m a proud father. You can probably tell.

I’m also worried that as she’s so like me in so many ways, that she will end up with the same bastard of an illness as I have. For me, it’s partly too much stress for too long while I was ill that resulted in two crashes and a litany of detritus to clear up, still clearing up.

I don’t want to give her that present.

I don’t want my daughter to follow in dad’s footsteps and if I’m honest, it scares the hell out of me. I watch, I talk and when she shows signs of stress, I help her deal with them as best I can, as well as Lady M who is also hot on anything affecting the kids.

It’s just passed exam season, not GCSEs as they are in two years for her, but it’s the school’s way of preparing kids mentally for exams in a real setting. I fully agree with this as it identifies kids that have issues in a formal exam setting and allows work with them to support them, to advise and manage their anxiety with exams.

Abigail had her exams and a Duke of Edinburgh bronze award expedition all at the same time, which meant added stress for her. We helped her plan her study, take the right approach and after the exams, that was where the real stress began. Once she completed the DoE task, had most of the results back, was when she relaxed and it showed. Less grumpy, less uptight and more positive in herself, which was good to see. What also helped is that she aced the exams, although that’s not the classification nowadays, with numbers instead of letters that mean pretty much the same thing.

Before the results came back, she was stressing, sure she’d not done well in certain subjects, not confident at all in her abilities and we had to prop her up a couple of times. That is a red flag moment for me, in terms of mental health. It showed me we need to help her deal with stress and pressures, to deliver and do the best she can. Once she does that, no-one can ask anything more of her, including herself.

It’s a development mindset. No point in blowing smoke up a kid’s butt if they haven’t done well but you can ask if they did their best, did everything they could and if so, that’s all they can do. If not, then you give them the strategy and tools to make sure they can improve, help them to do what they can to give their best.

That’s what I do with both my kids and it does seem to be the same from their teachers. I remember a teacher telling me once that I was capable of more, capable of better and if my chemistry marks didn’t improve ‘I will kick your fucking arse from here to breakfast, as you are capable of more.’ I always remember it well, because he cared enough to say it straight and was there to help me but ultimately, I had to put the work in. I did better in chemistry and biology as a result.

All I can do with Darling Daughter is be there for her, help her learn when those moments happen when she waivers or stumbles and allow her to develop the strategies, the tools for dealing with stress when it will inevitably happen.

She’s like me but she still has time to be a whole lot better, a whole lot more and to live a healthy life without this illness grabbing her too.

We owe it to our kids for the best in life.

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