Monday, March 28, 2011

Who's afraid?

Few would disagree that parents view their children, at least sometimes, as an extension of themselves.  Isn't that why it can be hard to let them dress themselves before they have any clue about how to make a semi-congruent outfit? And that's why it can be traumatic when a child melts down in public.  Who doesn't worry about how they are being judged as their children misbehave?  I'm sure there are parents out there who are immune to judgment and not nearly as self-conscious as I am.  I hope to be one of them when I grow up. 

For the most part, I think that it's natural to feel that our children's actions reflect on us and it doesn't have to impair our decisions as parents.  But sometimes it does.

GJ's school holds a talent show each year.  A form came home requesting that interested kids submit acts.  I threw the form away and didn't think twice about it.  It did not occur to me that any of my kids would want to be in the show and under the spotlight in front of their whole school. 

Several days later, GJ told me that he wanted to play piano in the talent show.  I was shocked.  What happened to my shy kid?  He must not know what the talent show really entails, I thought.  So I explained that a LOT of people would be watching him.  He said, with excitement in his eyes, "Will I be on the stage?"  He seemed to genuinely comprehend and welcome the idea of a solo performance.

But I was still nervous and, I am ashamed to admit, I tried to discourage him.  Why did I do that?  Why, once I knew he wasn't going to be traumatized by the shock of so many eyes on him, did I still try to convince him to wait until next year?  The answer is that I thought he wouldn't be perfect after only five months of lessons.  "Who cares?" you ask.  Good question.  I did.  I was casting my own hang-ups and inhibitions upon my child.

I am so grateful and proud that he insisted.  I made a call to see if he could be allowed to enter the talent show even though the sign-up date had passed.  He was permitted to enter.  With a week until "go-time" he really practiced and buckled down without me saying a word.  I don't know where the determination and focus came from.  He asked his sister and brother to pretend to be audience members and instructed them when to clap. He took the whole thing seriously and on the day of the show he wasn't nervous at all.  He was just excited to do his thing and show off. 

And that boy, the one full of steely confidence that I barely recognized, is what my shy little baby has become.  He played well in the talent show and most importantly he enjoyed himself.   I know now that my job is to stay out of his way when I can.  He and I don't have the same fears and what he does in the world is all about HIM.


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