This past spring was our school talent show. My daughter had been persistent in her desire to perform in it since last year. I declined her request the first year because I honestly thought I could never allow her to risk experiencing the trauma of failing in front of her entire school. Can you imagine going through the horror of having all the kids in school laughing at you, as you stand on stage in sheer humility? Oh no….must go into “mama bear protection mode”. She was in first grade and new to the school….and her talent was um…..shall I say a work in progress? So last year came and went and this year she was adamant about singing a solo. How can I say no to that kind of spirit and desire? How can I continue to drown her dream? It was time to let go and allow her to walk on her own….into the dark stage of life…amongst the wolves of elementary school…alone….with a microphone… Oh dear.
Well, as life would have it, the week before this huge big deal, my stepfather passed away. (another story for another day) I am out of town in Wisconson for the days leading up to the talent show and unable to help my courageous daughter prepare for her song. On the phone, I would ask her how it was going and if she was practicing so as not to forget the words. Her response was always dismissive and vague….which made me worry more. Was she actually ready for this? Will this be the pivotal moment in her life where the student body laughs at her and she turns into Carrie? Her life may take the turn and who knows …..years down the road when she is on the streets and on drugs and homeless, she will say this was the day she started the fall. It could happen….
I get home the day before the big show and ask her several times to practice her song…..she continues to show little interest in practicing and seems comfortable with the looming spotlight. We listen to her song in the car and she sings along and sounds good! This however does not in any way give me comfort as I know performance anxiety all too well…. she could blow in an instant once she steps up with hundreds of eyes on her. Oh Lord, please make this a good experience!
We pick out a cute outfit for the big day and she is off to school! She seems calm and prepared. I go home and pray and pace…. An hour later, I come back for the show and anxiously wait her turn. She was early in the program thank GOD, for if she was at the end, I’m not sure I could have made it through.
She gets up on stage, takes the microphone and looks so nervous!!!! I want to run up and hold her and tell her it’s gonna be okay!!! The music starts, and kids are talking and squirming and I want to run up and yell, “LISTEN UP YOU LITTLE PEOPLE! YOU BE RESPECTFUL RIGHT NOW AND PAY FULL ATTENTION TO THE ARTIST PERFORMING!! DO YOU UNDERSTAND???? NOW SHAPE UP OR I WILL REALLY DO SOMETHING CRAZY!!” But instead I almost cried…
Her voice is quiet but in tune. Pretty and delicate. She won’t look at the antsy audience, she is turned away just enough to feel safe and looks at the equipment the music is playing from. She doesn’t miss a beat or a word….I am holding back crying, as every muscle is fixed in a frozen state and my armpits are drenched. All of a sudden the microphone goes off. NO NO NO NO!!!!! FIX IT!!!! I wanted to be the mom from Terms of Endearment when she goes crazy at the nurses desk asking for pain meds for her daughter….. instead, I would run up to the stage and scream “YOU MUST FIX THIS!!!!! THIS CAN’T BE HAPPENING!!!! START OVER! THIS ISN’T FAIR!!! YOU ARE RUINING HER SONG!!!! HOW COULD YOU???? NOW SHE WILL BE LAUGHED AT AND TURN INTO CARRIE!!!!”
What actually happened was this…..
As the teachers scurried to fix the sound on the microphone, my daughter continued to sing not missing a beat! She looked scared and confused, but carried on like a true performer! After what seemed like hours, the microphone came back on, and her voice came through with the tone of an angel. Right to the very end, she sang beautifully, brilliantly, and boldly…..in front of the entire school. My girl did it. Without me. On her own. She took a step into a world of risk and fear and found light in accomplishing her goal. I saw both relief and satisfaction in her face as she stepped away from the stage. I beamed with pride for my girl! I wanted to run to her and pick her up and twirl her around and scream “YOU DID IT!!!!” I waited for her to look at me….. I waited. And waited. And finally, when the next skit started, she looked at me with a smile. I did the usual freak out spazy crazy wild nonverbal moves that told her how proud I was of her…..and she lit up.
The greatest part of this story is this:
My 7 year old daughter did this all on her own. She had a vision, a dream, and a deep desire. She stepped out into the world and took a risk. She showed confidence and poise and a light of sweetness as she shared a part of herself with others that she truly wanted to share. I was there, but I had no part in this experience other than being scared,. worried and then relieved at the end of it all. This wasn’t about me. This was ALL about her. Wow.
We NEVER know the potential and ability of our children unless perhaps we let go and watch them fly…. always believing in them. And I suppose waiting with a net in case they fall…
This day…my baby soared.