I don’t have a child. But I was a child, and I have one wish for children in my life.
I want you to grow up knowing “approval” is unconditional. And I’m going to do everything I can.
I know your parents cheer you on. I know they compliment you on your successes and awe in your beauty. And that’s wonderful.
As your aunty, I’m only interested in the fact you worked hard. Either you got high marks or not, applied make-up accentuate your features or not, the result, succeeded or failed, will not be a part of my input and celebration.
Sure, if I praise your successes, you’ll be motivated to succeed. But what is the sacrifice?
You’ll be motivated to do those things to have me praise you. To have my approval. To feel you’re worthy of my attention. And that is the last thing I want to do to you.
I want you to grow up knowing “approval” is unconditional.
Why am I willing to teach you that failing is ok? I love your parents, and I trust them to raise you to be an ambitious dreamer. So I don’t feel I need to do that. I want to support you to succeed in knowing that I’ll be there with my arms stretched out with tears of pride when you fall flat on your face. Especially if you fall flat on your face.
I want you to tell me a story of that thing you tried and know for certain I’ll say “Awesome for trying!” “You did it!!” not “But did you succeed?”
I want you to tell me about the time you devastatingly failed and publicly humiliated yourself. Know I’ll be thinking that, maybe from today after this experience and resilience, I might have to treat you as a grown-up!
I want you to show me a 70/100 test result and know I’ll hear what you want me to hear about it. Maybe you’re proud? Maybe you’re disappointed? Are you celebrating? Are you regretting? I’ll listen. I won’t jump to “so how can you make sure the next one is 100%?”
I want you to tell me how much fun you had at the hockey game and know that I won’t ask “Did you win?”
Show me what you draw. I’ll love it. If you ask me if it looks right, I’ll tell you that there is no wrong way to draw, as the enemy of art is the desire to be correct.
You can walk out in the most gorgeous prom dress, and I won’t exclaim “you look great!” I’ll tell you you glow.
The bouquet you will buy for your mom with your own first paycheque will be the biggest bouquet I’ve ever seen regardless of the physical dimensions.
You bring home the most handsome date or the opposite, and my eyes will only observe the way s/he looks at you.
You don’t bring home a date, and I’ll listen to your story of heartbreak and not tell you what you should have done.
Applying for something, asking someone out, trying art, trying new sports, designing, if you are ever afraid of failure, know that the only way you can fail is by not trying. If you try and not succeed, you succeeded in trying, and I’ll take you out for ice cream. Double scoop.
I love you. Your acceptance, approval, and worth are unconditional. So please go live your life and fail as many times as you can and as widely and as boldly. Because that means you are living as much as you can as widely and boldly as you can without trying to win approval by dating a good-looking person or being thin or smiling when you don’t want to or allowing abuse in your home.