Monday, December 14, 2015

New York confidence

The Christmas tree we rolled home and decorated

One of the things I love about New York is the friendliness that is all around you. I walk into a bakery cafe and the cashier talks to me casually about laundry and rain. He now recognizes me and always says hi in a super friendly way. Another guy walks in to buy coffee and although I'm just sitting there with my croissant, he tells me to have a beautiful day on his way out again. This is just me on my own. When I'm with Zoe we, particularly she, gets an overwhelming amount of positive attention. Not just the "oh that so cute" comment when we try to roll home a small Christmas tree on her scooter but also the acknowledging smiles when she walks out with her baby doll (now finally with a name: Cutie Pie) in her doll-seized baby carrier. People come up and talk to her (almost never inappropriately) and give her the attention that helps build her confidence.

If I could give her one thing that I always lacked it is self-confidence. Growing up in Scandinavia, the 'jante law' ruled and I don't remember when but at one point it just became wrong to say things like "I'm really good at this". It is to brag. To think you are better than everybody else* (a deeply misunderstood notion actually, because we can't all be equally good at everything, I WAS better than most other kids in dancing, singing and math, but if I said that I was snooty). So when Zoe says these things, I excitedly agree and says yes you are really good at that (dancing, acting, numbers, making up stories), but also that she has to keep practicing. She is beginning to show real aptitude for ballet and all kinds of dancing and since she is way taller than I, she will actually have a good chance of dancing on a higher level than I ever did. But of course she has to practice hard and maintain her dance classes regularly. So I tell her that she is very good, but that it is hard and she has to practice to get better.

Meanwhile New York is the best place for Zoe (and me for that matter) to be to build her confidence. Not just because she gets a lot of positive attention but also because her English language skills make her feel confident in communicating. She is going back to Sweden for a couple of months after Christmas but if everything goes well (and her dad doesn't not randomly change his mind) she gets to come back to kindergarten and dance class two months in the spring. I can't wait.

*When I moved to the US as a teenager and relearned to think positive about myself, it backfired when being back in Scandinavia. I still think I rub a lot of people the wrong way with some of the things I say, creating a distance between Scandinavians and hybrid-me. Unfortunately these things are not a sign of a better self-confidence but more an actual awareness of my own talents.

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