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©June 2000

Carol Jane Remsburg



Foundations of Personal Growth



Raising a child, especially a headstrong child, to learn the teachings of self-belief are essential.  They often come into play like a late game replacement, yet are always the 'star' player.  I watch the growth of my own daughter as the memories of my own struggles hover in the shadows.


When Erin was leaving the two year-old stage and into three, she feared going without a diaper.  While she couldn't communicate that with precise elocution, I knew and understood it.  She had to believe in herself first.  Oh, there would be setbacks but the affirmations of trust, love, and belief on my part were there.  Imparting them to my little one wasn't always easy.


Then came Day Care that took her away from the family setting.  My sister had nurtured my daughter each day since she was 5-weeks old when I had to return to work.  Little Erin was the 'beloved' child.  She was the doted upon child; the child whom all her older cousins paid enormous attention to.  Erin was spoiled.


It was more of a school setting than day-care and Erin needed the interaction with her peers and with people that were not exclusively family.  She was torn.  Erin has always been drawn to everything new and shiny, yet remains steadfastly attached to the status quo.  Any deviations in that status quo and all will suffer the consequences.  We suffered.


When Erin was five, she struggled with shoelaces.  With the wonder of Velcro, life had been easy for a few years, but the kid needed to learn how to tie her shoes.  Our mother-daughter lessons turned into immediate tears—for both of us.  She wanted nothing to do with those shoes or me.  Our mutual frustration levels soared.


Outside help was required.  Little Erin had an uncle, slightly removed since his divorce from my sister but still a major player in Erin's life.  Tom is a big man to most adults and must have seemed gigantic to Erin.  Still, Tom always has had a way with kids.  He was stoic in his approach.  His deep voice never raised or wavered. 


Erin's always-evident low threshold for frustration wasn't tolerated.  She'd throw the shoe and he'd bring it back.  I watched at the sidelines trying not to gnaw my fingernails up to my elbows.  I don't have that much patience and Erin must get it from me.  Finally, my daughter knew she had to keep trying.  Tom reminded her that 'she could do it.'  With a slip of the lace and some bunny-ears later, Erin was tying her shoes.  She then went about tying everyone else's shoes.  She believed in herself. 


Then it was time for public school after first grade.  Her teachers didn't need to tell me that my child is bright; she is.  I'm also honest enough to say that she wasn't, I'd admit that too.  However we were dealing with what I thought was a behavior problem.  Like a mule, Erin balked and hard; she brayed loudly as well.  This wasn't fun for her any more.


I tried to find the answers.  Several of her teachers were thinking she was AD/HD.  I knew she wasn't.  It was a touchy thing.  Even the principal of the school waded into the fray, thankfully on my side.  What it came down to was that Erin couldn't see.  We'd already endured several attempts with her pediatrician addressing the eye chart.  Erin would get silly and play rather than pay attention.  She wanted glasses. 


Finally, at age seven, Erin knew this was serious business.  At the optometrist's office it was quiet.  I sat there beside her as she tried to read the chart.  I almost cried.  My child had been struggling to read, couldn't, and became frustrated and had vented in the classroom.  With a surname beginning with the letter "R" it found her always at the back of the class where she couldn't read the chalkboard.


It was discovered that Erin had a lazy eye, not visible to the layperson, was far-sighted, and had a stigmatism.  Glasses and eye exercises made all the difference.  Within a month, Erin was the best reader in the class.  She was more self-contained and focused.  She began to believe in herself again.


Several years ago, we remodeled our little house.  We arranged the entire second story of our home to be Erin's bedroom and playroom.  It was a gift of 700 square feet that few children get.  It had everything.  Yeah, it had everything yet nothing of what Erin wanted.  She wanted her old, tiny room.  It was like a security blanket for her and she clung tightly to it.  The upper room was fine as a playroom but not to sleep in.  It's taken two years, lots of bribery, and a new bed to bring her around.  What it came down to was the issue of believing in herself.  She had picked up on my fear that I had worried that she wouldn't be able to navigate the stairs while still embraced in the arms of half-slumber. 


Then came the swimming issue.  About a month before Erin was born, my little niece, aged 22 months, drowned in a horrible accident.  This fear was cemented into Erin's brain early on by many family members.  I wasn't one of them.  For years she would only get into a wading pool if I held her or if someone else she trusted did.  She's almost ten now and last month shed her apprehension.  She's learning to swim and taking joy in her self-confidence. 


Rarely do we grow up totally fearless about new and strange things.  In the normal course of events, my daughter is brave and excited about all new things.  It's only that certain issues have stumped her and made her step back and question her abilities.  It's something that has happened to each of us after we've been born and lived for a few years.  Moreover, many of these episodes have long ago dropped from our memories into some abyss that we are thankful for.  With mothers and fathers, it's different.  Our children's growing pains we know and recall more clearly than our own.  Still, somewhere in the fog of memories, our own foibles haunt us. 


The foundations of our personal growth begin early in life.  With each of us, we have found everything is easier once we've realized that we can trust ourselves.  That we can do it, whatever 'it' is.  No matter what our age is, each time we set aside our fears and step forward onto the road of enlightenment with the solid backpack of self-belief those new challenges down the road are much easier.  It's just then that we know we'll make it no matter if we manage it on our first attempt or our hundredth.  Keeping the faith in ourselves is as vital as breathing.  A bold new world awaits all of us. 


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