Last night, I tucked my ten year-old daughter in bed. We talked about school and the things she learns in class. She told me about a girl in another classroom.
She said, “Seriously Daddy….the girl lies all the time.”
She asked, “Why does she do that?”
Then she curled under the blankets and tucked Buster, her stuffed bulldog, beneath her chin. She snuggled the side of her head into the pillow, moved over and created a spot for me to lie down next to her.
“Sometimes people like to make up stories to be more interesting,” I said.
“Sometimes people don’t feel good about themselves, or they don’t think they’re cool enough. So they make up stories to feel better.”
I explained, “This is how people get attention. Understand? When other people come up and act interested….it makes them feel cool.”
I admitted, “I did that too.”
She was surprised. “You did?”
“Sure. I think a lot of people make up stories to feel better about themselves. That doesn’t mean it’s a good thing. That just means it happens and there’s always a reason why.”
I told stories.
Hell, I told whoppers!
I expanded truths and invented stories to make myself look or seem better than who I was.
But the important part is not what I did, it’s why…
Curled in bed and interested to learn more, my daughter listened as I explained about my experience and awkwardness.
When you see yourself as awkward or uninteresting, you assume the rest of the world sees you the same way.
I know I did.
I was too skinny and too short. I looked much younger than any of my friends, and no matter how I tried to fit in, or be like everyone else…I was always only me.
And saying, “Only me,” is the telling part of that sentence.
I felt uncomfortable. I felt vulnerable, or easily taken.
What could I do about it?
I didn’t want to be alone or singled out.
I was too small and weak to defend myself.
I was too afraid to speak out, so I created a personality to hide behind.
I created an image and I wore that image like a mask.
To me, an image seemed better than the truth.
Like so many others, I created stories about myself to win opinions—but in the end—this never works and people see you as you are: a liar.
(Or a joke)
I admit it; I was that kid. I was a liar and sometimes a joke. As a Dad, however, it is important that I explain why this was instead of what it was. As a Dad, I see the lessons of self-worth more important than any other. I see this as necessary because to a child; there is no worse feeling than feeling alone and no child should feel that way.
But somehow, I don’t believe my child sees me as a person.
I think she sees me as Dad …and dads are different.
Dads know how to fix things.
Dads eat the big piece of chicken and sit at the head of their dinner table. Dads leave for work in the morning and they come home after the sun goes down. And I think even that doesn’t seem real to our children. It’s almost as if Dads leave the house and enter into an imaginary world of massed gadgets, factories and computer screens.
In truth, Dads are the first representation of manhood.
This is what our kids see.
And if my daughter is to see anything—then I want her to see the real me.
I don’t want to hide behind an image or be someone I’m not. I did that for decades and it never worked.
While I still deal with insecurity and awkwardness, let me be honest about it. Let my child see me as a person.
This way, if she ever feels awkward, or uninteresting—she will know I felt this way too, and hopefully, she can talk to me about it.
I believe in the benefit of open and honest communication….
I still tell my daughter that I was well behaved in school though.
I tell her I was never sent to the principal’s office.
I tell her that I sat up front, paid attention and I always raised my hand before speaking in class.
She smiles when I say this now.
I laugh and ask, “What, you don’t believe me?”
She giggles and says, “Not really.”
I just smile and hope for the best.
I don’t think my blood pressure could take it if she was the kid I was….
By the way…
Lies and stories are not limited to childhood—but then again—neither is awkwardness and insecurity.
In the end, we’re all just kids in the schoolyard.
We’re all trying to get by, trying to fit and trying to be cool.