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Are You Projecting Your Inferiority Complex Onto Your Child?

Photograph by Twenty20

I have always been a bundle of inferiority complex-induced nerves. Because of my social anxiety, I huddle in corners at social events, terrified that people are staring at me, gossiping about the weirdo hiding in her wine glass. Because of my Impostor Syndrome and my body image issues, I worry about whether or not people are enjoying my yoga classes, or whether they are perhaps disappointed when they walk in and see such a curvy yogi at the front of the room. I worry, in my role as a writer and editor, that maybe I am not actually qualified to lead an editorial committee made up of people who are so much more impressive than me. Because I am 35, I worry that I am too old to write and publish a book... or at least one that people will talk about.

And now I am a parent, so of course there are approximately twenty billion new things to worry about, all of them coming back to the issue of whether or not I am a failure of a parent.

I never said I wasn't being irrational.

I just got my weekly BabyCenter email in my inbox, the one that tells me what I'm supposed to be neurotic about from week to week. In the very first paragraph of this week's email, I read: "About 90 percent of all toddlers are walking by now (late walkers will catch up in the next month or two.)"

Fantastic. So my daughter is a "late walker." AS IF I DIDN'T ALREADY KNOW, BABYCENTER.

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A few weeks ago, I started taking my daughter to weekly music classes in order to nurture her burgeoning talents as a kick-ass drummer and future "So You Think You Can Dance" contestant. Though she is not the youngest one there, she is the only one not walking. As we sing the "Hello Song" and dance around in a circle to the "Walking Song," she sits there, staring at everyone with her big, beautiful, brown eyes. When the teacher dumps the percussion instruments onto the floor, all of the other kids crowd around grabbing castanets and maracas while she hangs back.

When we get up to dance, the other children chase each other, squealing and cackling and having the time of their lives. We all dance around Em and make silly faces at her and I make silly faces too but, inside, I am embarrassed. For her, yes, because I can't help thinking of all the things that seemed to hold me back when I was growing up. I can't help projecting my own childhood struggles onto her.

So I suppose my greatest fear is that I will somehow cause her to feel the way I have always felt about myself.

But deeper down, I suppose I'm embarrassed for me because of what her behavior says about my parenting abilities. Is she not walking yet because I don't play enough games with her that would stimulate her gross motor skills? Is she quiet around the other kids because of how infrequently I give her the opportunity to be around other children? This last despite the fact that I am an introvert and know that there is nothing wrong with introversion. This last despite knowing that I cannot make her feel bad if she ends up being one, too.

We had Em's 15-month checkup earlier this week. I had to fill out a questionnaire about which skills she had mastered, and which she was still struggling with. "It looks like she's doing pretty good," said the pediatrician. But then he handed us several sheets of paper filled with activities we could do to help her develop the skills she was lacking. And I couldn't help feeling judged.

The thing is, Em seems to develop skills at the very moment when I am the most worried that she might be falling behind. She did this with crawling. With pulling herself up to stand. With cruising.

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Hell, she scaled an entire staircase when we weren't looking.

So I suppose my greatest fear is that I will somehow cause her to feel the way I have always felt about myself.

That she will sense my self-consciousness and internalize it.

That she will feel it, too.

I can only hope that doesn't happen. That I don't do anything that somehow makes her feel less than. Because feeling less than has held me back my entire life. And I don't want anything to hold her back.

Because she's amazing.

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