Believing in “je peux”

je peuxI’m pretty crazy about these flash cards my daughter has been making to help her to conjugate verbs. Notice how the “je peux” picture is continued on the “tu peux” card. I’ve always loved her tendency to use the edge of the frame in her drawings, leading figures in or out of the image.

“Elle peut,” that is for certain!

But she doesn’t always believe it. In fact her confidence in her own abilities is at a low these days, and it’s a real puzzle to figure out how to help.

My husband teaches cinematography, and every year at around this time he gets grumpy marking papers that often aren’t as good as he hoped they would be. One day he took a little break and went to the campus store to buy a new red pen, since his old one was losing its redness. But the only red pens he could find were in large packs with lots of other colours.

“Do you have any single red pens?” he asked the clerk.

She replied that they didn’t stock them much these days because most teachers don’t like to use red anymore. “It sends the wrong message.”

“Are you kidding me?”

“Well,” she said. “Sometimes students see it like a warning.”

“Yeah,” said J. “Sometimes it is!”

I guess it’s all relative. This morning he marked a superb paper, and the red showed off all the check marks and the final tally at the bottom — near perfect.

pouvoirI can’t help thinking that the biggest mistake in this generation of parenting is that we coddle our kids too much — we want to save them from disappointment, fill them with confidence, and make them believe everything they do is wonderful. But in the end it doesn’t serve them.

And this approach spills over into the school system and moves up with them through every level. Even the negative comments on a child’s report card are framed in the most positive way possible: “With frequent reminders, Teddy occasionally participates in drama.” Does Teddy participate? Not really.

I’m sometimes guilty of too much praise and coddling. I ooh and aah over N’s creations. And I have to constantly remind myself not to do things for her, but rather to let her make mistakes and to learn from them. So lately, if she struggles with her homework, I try to think of things I can do that might help her feel supported but not carried. Sometimes, after a night of grammar homework, I leave a poem at her place at the breakfast table:

Verbs are words that sing

And dance and hop and swing

Verbs are words that try

And reach up to the sky

Or after a night of geometry:

Parallel lines are friends

Traveling towards the same ends

Even when the road bends

Parallel lines stay friends

And I can see how much it means to her when she offers little gifts back, like the picture below. The best part was the way it was addressed:

To Momma, so she can know my knolege.


parallel lines





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13 responses to “Believing in “je peux”

  1. Elizabeth Danzig-Teck


    This is one of the most beautiful, thought-full, and insightful captures of what it’s like to try to be the best mommy we can be, especially when we must make painful decisions that will prepare our daughters for growing forward in life, about which we weep alone at times. Through your writing, your daughter’s whimsical and wonderful drawings (especially when they relate to learning) and because you gave us a window into how your daughter receives and shares ideas, how she feels, and how she expresses herself for herself, and for and with you, I felt the depth of feeling that words will never be able to describe what mommies and daughters share. {Please excuse my poor grammar}

    Thank you for sharing with us what I’ve written about above and oh so much more. I loved reading and seeing this post. I’m enchanted by it, and I’m grateful for your openness and candor. You are a very special mommy who has a very special daughter. So happy for both of you…

    Best to you and yours,
    Elizabeth (Danzig-Teck)

  2. Elsie Marley

    wonderful, wise, beautiful…thank you, k & n.

  3. jim

    Do I praise this blog too much? Wonderful! Again! Your love of that little girl shines through with every post——-

  4. Rige

    Very moving…
    thank you for sharing so ….

  5. Lenny

    Along the road of parental travels I’ve learned that bouts of lack of confidence are like the loss of appetite before a growth spurt – they signal a mental and emotional leap is in progress – a positive sign when guided by loving parents. N. has won the parent lottery and will always live a very rich life.

  6. Marilyn

    What a beautiful post, and those little breakfast poems are lovely. You are on the right track and all will turn out well.

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