When It’s Like You’re Raising A Different Version of Yourself

As a parent, it’s always interesting when you discover that your kids have inherited certain personality traits. It’s interesting and FUN when the traits are “good”: the younger boy is outgoing like I am. He’s very social, and he’s very loyal to his friends. The older boy is very responsible and carries himself very well; I think he gets that from both Jim and me!

It’s interesting and sometimes slightly disturbing when the traits are things that you yourself have struggled with for a lifetime.

The older boy is like me in many other ways too; it’s not necessary (Julesie: “That’s not necessary!!!!”) (sorry, had to throw a private joke in there.) to go over all of them in vivid detail in this post–or at any other time, I guess!–but one in particular had my heart breaking all over the place last night.

The older boy is Intense. Note the use of the capital “I”. We’ve known it since he was born; in fact, people used to remark when looking at my adorable newborn baby, “Wow, he’s really focusing hard. How intense!” (totally true) I’m certain, had he been able to express himself at a week old, he would have been concerned that his Dad and I weren’t getting enough sleep to be able to take care of him, or that maybe we were spending too much of our hard-earned money on diapers, or that we were worried too much about him being up for 2 hours in the middle of the night each time I nursed him. It’s probably why he cried when *anybody* besides me held him during the majority of his first year. Intense, see?

My kid, though a procrastinator (he comes by it honestly; I hear his mother is also a procrastinator), worries about every. little. detail. All the time. He has not only inherited the “Go Big or Go Home” philosophy, but unfortunately also the “Over Analyze Everything” Theory and “What-If Yourself To Death” Ideology. He’s like my Mini-Me, except he’s a guy. And taller.

So, when I finished teaching my spin class last night and called Jim to get an update on the lacrosse game that the 16-year-old was goalie-ing, I found out that they lost, 12-9. Well, you can’t win ’em all, I guess.

But there was more. The boy caught the ball in the last couple of seconds and it didn’t sit right in his basket, tipped out, and he accidentally scooted it into the net, scoring that twelfth goal for the other team. Yikes. We had just gone to another game on Monday night during which the opposing goalie did the same thing, and I remarked to Julesie that although it is bound to happen eventually, my boy would be beating the crud out of himself if that happened to him. Apparently “eventually” had a plan to meet us this week.

And so I knew what to expect when they arrived at home.

He didn’t say anything to me as he walked right by me and up to his room, closing the door. The younger boy filled me in: “Just so you know, he’s mad because…” and he and Jim told me the whole story. I was making dinner so I finished what I was doing and, after about ten minutes went up to talk to him.

He told me to come in when I knocked, and I found him still in uniform and just sitting on his computer chair, totally dejected. He looked like he just found out that somebody died.

I said, “Bad game, huh?” He nodded.

“Well, you can’t win every time you know. But it’s okay to be upset.” He nodded.

I said, “Your team and coach didn’t say bad things about you, did they?” (I knew they didn’t, of course.) He shook his head.

I wasn’t getting anything out of him, but that was okay. I understand *completely* where he was at. He took on all of the blame for losing the game, and that last goal did not help matters in the slightest. I told him, “Well, I know you’re upset right now and I understand. If you want to talk about it later, we’re happy to listen.”

He came down for dinner shortly after, and could barely eat. We tried to talk to him about it but, still nothing. It is heartbreaking to see your kid have the weight of the world on his shoulders and be unable to lift it for him, even while knowing that you would react in the same way–and have been that way forever. It’s a difficult thing to handle because what outsiders see as “hyper-organized” or “overachieving” is really, plain and simple, a Fear of Failure. Unfortunately, all Jim and I can do for him is BE THERE for him and let him know that, of course, mistakes happen. Of course, he can’t win every game. Of course, we will love him no matter what.

I think he gets it, though. An hour later as I was checking my e-mail, the 16-year-old came downstairs, sat down, and said, “Hi.”

He was ready to talk. Not about the game, but he was talking. And that’s all I cared about.



  • Mrs4444

    Melissa, this is a terrific post. I loved it and could relate to everything you felt. I’m so glad he has you for parents; it sounds like you’re doing a great job. My Kyle ran for Student Council President this morning; my stomach is a bit knotted, wondering how it went. I’ve already told him, though, “Whatever you end up doing next year (president or not), I know you are destined for greatness. I’m proud of you. Good luck.” Hopefully, there will be no pieces to pick up tonight, but if so, it will be good character building; better to have disappointments like goalie mess-ups and student council let-downs than never to have aimed high in the first place.

  • Otter Thomas

    I struggled with the same things as a kid. I can’t even imagine how hard it will be if Braden does that too. Great post.

  • Daddy Files

    Wow, great post. I was the same way your son was a teen but worse. I was the kid flipping out when he did something wrong, even if the game was still in progress. A bad loss had me upset for a week and I took it all way too personally.

    I dread my son will pick up the same trait.

    Liked the post a lot, thanks!

  • Jason

    I can sympathize as well. I actually go so far as to apologize if someone bumps into me because I was obviously in the way. It sucks to always blame yourself for everything and hopefully as he gets older it will get easier for your son.

  • Andrew's Daddies

    Great post. It’s painful to watch your child sad. It’s wonderful to see them emerge out of it independently and become stronger for it.

  • PJ Mullen

    The fear of failure can be difficult to work through. I know I’ve had my fair share of experience with failure and I haven’t always done my best to work through it in constructive ways. My mom used to be there for me when I fell on my face and it meant a lot to me after reflection.

  • New Dad Blog

    That sucks about the game, but at elast you guys were there for him and he knows it.

    Plus, it’s not like his slip up was the cause of losing the game. . .

  • Joel

    Wow. Great post.

    That’s one of the things that bothers me most even at this early stage of the game (my son is 15 months). I hate it, when I have to let him struggle through something alone. Whether it be something simple like when he first started walking or something bigger like learning to live with defeat.

    Good stuff.

  • Super Mega Dad

    Great post!

    I can completely relate. My son is Intense as well, but gets it from his mother. I am the opposite of Intense. He always reminds me of EVERYTHING that I’ve forgotten or put off until the last second.

  • Sheri

    Great post. My son is so much like me, and some of it is “good stuff” but some of it is my overwhelming insecurity. I’ve overcome a lot of it (at my age I should have) but to see him struggling with it at 13 just breaks my heart. I would pick him up and carry him through this if I could,but I know he will grow up stronger for going through it. It’s just so hard to watch.

    You are a great mom!

  • Michelle

    Yep, that’s me. And I see it in Mister Man. He already won’t try things for fear of failure. And beats himself up when things (e.g., writing) aren’t perfect. And from the second you started describing him I was thinking fear of failure. It isn’t just you guys. And it sounds like he’s learning to deal with it. I’m hoping I figure out how to do it with Mister Man, too! Love and Logic is my new book….