Getting Real With Shadra Bruce

Growing up, I never had a lot of confidence. In fact, during middle school and high school, I was pretty much a social failure. It came down to a lack of self esteem and self confidence. It made it difficult for me to be comfortable in my own skin or do the things I wanted to do.

My kids have the self-esteem that I lacked. It comes from the way we’ve raised them, I guess, in celebrating their individuality. It’s not that my parents did anything wrong; they just came from a different generation when it was all about respecting authority and chasing the American Dream and conforming to society. Dave and I have raised our kids to question everything, think for themselves, and be actively involved in change (and yes, we do wish we were in New York City right now, Occupying Wall Street, and being part of this amazing social movement). We’re outspoken, and so are the kids.

How does this pay off? Well, our kids are comfortable speaking their minds on issues they feel strongly about (even if their opinions differ from ours). It also pays off in ways that allow them a better experience in life. We’ve seen it come to fruition with the older kids, but we’re finally seeing the impact of the effort with the younger kids.

The kids are capable of standing up for themselves in the face of adversity; they are confident in who they are. We often get comments from teachers and school officials that our kids have such personality. It’s because we let them. They’re not mini-mes. They are individuals. Parker wants to be a rock star, grow his hair long, and models his singing after groups like Metallica, Green Day, and Slipknot (not that we actually let him listen to it all yet). Anika dances through life, determined to be her own person, set the tone for fashion without worrying what others think, and be the first female president. Not bad aspirations.

Are they strong-willed and sometimes control freaks who cause a little bit of stress with their determination? Sure. But while that sometimes means we butt heads and come to the end of the day exhausted, I’m thrilled to know that they will go through life more comfortable in their own skin than I ever was.