“My friend says she is smarter than me” my daughter looked up at me and said as we were on our evening walk. “I am sure both you and your friend are equally as smart” I said to her. She wasn’t going to let this slide. She wanted me to insist that she was the smartest of all. I really couldn’t in good conscience do that. “Maybe you are both smart, but in different ways” I said to her. She still didn’t find this answer to be acceptable. She wanted me to assure her that her friend was wrong and that she was right. She wanted to be the smartest girl of all.
Now certainly I like to uplift and encourage my daughter at every opportunity but I also want my daughter to be a fair and a caring friend. I tried to explain to her that arguments like this were futile. I told her that even if she was the winner of the argument about who was the smartest, she still would be the loser in the end because she hurt her friends feelings. I asked her how she would feel if she found out she wasn’t as smart as her friend and her friend was the one bragging. She seemed to understand.
I told her that the smartest people in the world didn’t need to tell anyone they were smart at all. Being smart, or strong, or any other positive attribute is not going to be gained by bragging and certainly if you have that attribute you don’t need to tell anyone and everyone all about it. Positive attributes exude from us if we actually possess them. Now I realize this might have gone over my daughter’s head, so I tried to simplify it.
“When I was younger” I started to tell her. “I acted like I was the toughest kid on the block”. “I told kids that if they knew what was good for them they better not mess with me”. She seemed to really like where this was going. She wanted to hear a story about Dad’s glory days, lining em up and knocking them down. This wasn’t going to be one of those stories. “Now, when I was younger I was the skinniest, scrawniest, and weakest kid out of all the neighborhood children”. She looked at me, puzzled and very surprised. She couldn’t imagine her Dad anything other then a bearded and tattooed muscleman. Although I appreciate the compliment it wasn’t true then and it’s not really that true now either.
I told her stories about how I wasn’t confident as a child, and how I had to tell other kids I was so tough and strong just to keep them from picking on me. I told her I said these tough guy exaggerations all the time because I didn’t actually feel inside like I was tough or strong at all. I told the other children I was a master fighter, because in fact I wasn’t. She looked even more puzzled.
“These days my dear, I don’t need to tell anyone I am strong or tough quote. “Why is that Dad?” She asked. “It’s because after all these years I know now that I am both strong and tough. I have been in enough situations where I have proven my strength to myself. Now, if someone wants to test my strength I can laugh and walk away. I know inside, after years of being put to the test, that most people aren’t as tough as they say they are. Now if someone wants to prove they are the toughest I remember back to when I was a child screaming about how tough I was.
I was rambling. I needed to get right to the point. “If you are the toughest you don’t need to tell anyone you are tough at all, and if you believe you are the smartest it is of no benefit to you to tell other people you are the smartest. Just prove it with your words and actions. A strong person doesn’t need to fight all day to prove they are strong, and a smart person doesn’t argue with people about how smart they are either.
“You sure are tough, Dad” she said to me. I laughed out loud. “You sure are smart, sweetheart” I said back to her. It seemed like she got the message as she placed her hand in mine, smiled to herself, and we finished our evening walk.