Having Chutzpah—by Jamie Levine

My daughter, Jayda, is strong-willed, extremely social, talks incessantly, and isn’t afraid to say whatever is on her mind; she’s a lot like me. However, as a child, I wasn’t the extrovert I am now; in fact, when I was Jayda’s age, I was extremely quiet and shy. So, several weeks ago, when Jayda came home from school with an award for “Most Confident” student in her class, I almost burst with happiness and pride.

Jayda loves playing with girls her age—or even girls who are a bit older—and our lives are filled with incessant play dates. But on the few occasions when Jayda and I are at the playground alone and I apologize to Jayda for not being able to get any of her friends and their mommies to meet us there, she usually replies, “That’s ok, Mommy. I’ll make a new friend.” And she always does. I don’t even have to do a thing to help orchestrate a meeting. Jayda scopes out the area, sidles up next to a girl who looks appealing to her, and says something to the girl, or simply joins her, unbidden, in an activity, and moments later, the two girls are running around the playground together and Jayda is introducing me to her “new friend.”

Adversely, I have childhood memories of going on family vacations and entering new venues with my parents, and clinging to my mother’s side in lieu of approaching an unfamiliar kid as a potential playmate. I was happier hanging with my mom or sticking my nose in a book than mustering up the guts to talk to someone whom I didn’t know. Thus, I find my daughter’s outgoing nature to be amazing. My kid has chutzpah.

According to Merriam-Webster dictionary, this Yiddish word is defined as “supreme self-confidence: nerve, gall.” In Levine-lingo, “chutzpah” is Jayda spending four hours in an unfamiliar apartment complex’s pool this past weekend, and latching on to four different girls, one after another, replacing each as she left with a new one who arrived. More specifically, it is Jayda climbing onto a “new friend’s” father’s back and asking him to give her a ride around the pool (and him complying…several times). That’s my girl. She also went over to the handsome lifeguard to quiz him about what he was doing when he was testing the pool water, and interrupted an elderly woman’s conversation with her daughter about how the pool seemed so empty by explaining, “It was very crowded before…but everyone left.” My Jayda’s got chutzpah. And fortunately, she’s extremely cute, so people seem to enjoy her often-unbidden conversations.

In this fast-paced, competitive world, confidence is key. And if Jayda’s confidence at six can last until she’s sixty-six, I know it will serve her well. But even in the short-term, it satisfies us both: Jayda is able to keep herself entertained wherever we go…and I can always sit back and enjoy the show.