Three Things I am Remembering {on my 41st Birthday}

There is one important time. That time is now. There is a most important person. That individual is the one you are with. There is a most important thing. That is to do good for the one who is standing by your side. – paraphrased from the writing of Leo Tolstoy

image retrieved from http://www.seriouseats.com

I am forty with one extra year this very day. WOW. Contrary to what I would like to say (that I am twenty-nine and holding AGAIN), I am not. I was asked the other day, “How old are you Mrs. Gard?” I put it back on my student. “How old do you think I am?” I was told that I might be thirty. (Just found out this evening that another little guy thought I was turning twenty today- who wouldn’t love teaching kindergarten, I ask you??)  I owe these two little darlings a little extra recess.

Although in theory, I would take those numbers again (just because), in retrospect I remember twenty and thirty. And I don’t think I would ever truly go back. Not because it was horrible or bad or worse than forty-one. But because it would take from me the joy of living in the present here and now. There is one important time. That time is now. To trade our today for yesterday or to cash in this day so as to have tomorrow, robs from us the joy of experiencing the moments we’ve been given today.

Where it is at…is right now.

This is the most important moment for all of us today. Right now. What will we choose? Where will we go? Who will we influence? What lives will we touch? How will we show kindness? In what ways will we show love?

Act. Accordingly.Now.

Act with justice, kindness and love. For this is the time. You have no guarantees about five minutes from now. No guarantees about your next breath. All you have is this. This moment, right now.

I was in class earlier today, and I asked the students what was the one thing they thought was the most important quality in a person that no one should overlook. The answer I got was this: “Someone who doesn’t cut you up into little pieces.”

Yes, this is all important. But what I was fishing for this time was actually something a little tamer. I was attempting to elicit from them something about caring compassion. My hope was to express to the children the important role of kindness.

Today during quiet time, I was getting students settled in for some down time, and a few of the little boys came to me with a sparkle in their eye wanting some paper. They fussed about how I wasn’t allowed to see what they were working on, but I listened to the conversations from afar. They worked quite diligently at their project and helped each other out in finding the words they needed to say. What they were making were beautiful birthday cards for me. I have to say that these little cards are among the most meaningful writing samples I will collect from my students this year because they came from a caring heart of love. The letters were initiated because of kindness.

There is a most important thing. That is to do good for the one who is standing by your side. If we can teach children to do good for the ones who are standing by their side, they will take this experience and translate it into real world practice.

If we are kind inside our classrooms, then we will be kind on the playground. If we are kind on the playground, we will be kind on the bus. If we can be kind on the bus, we will be kind in our homes. If we can practice kindness inside our homes, then we can be kind anywhere. That is the power of kindness.

Today. This is your moment. Love the ones you are with and do good to the ones who are standing by your side. And you will never wish for any other moment than the one you are living right now. Because the moment you are living will be the one you have been waiting for your whole life long.

Don’t waste a precious second.

To-Do Lists

image retrieved from pinterest.com

I am sitting there at the table trying to rush things along- my usual way. In my head, I have a list running loops through my brain- the gears are turning fast. Birthday celebration, get home, tidy up house, finish laundry, get kids to bed, vacuum, work on my thesis paper. The to-do grows ever longer each passing minute. And like always, I am in a hurry to get things done. I check the time again, slow minutes ticking by unhurried while we eight wile away the minutes in a farmhouse kitchen. I bite my lip and try to catch Husband’s eye. I am getting antsy.

Tick, tick, tock.

Another much wiser and learned than I looks at me from across the room- with a slow smile says, “No rush. Relax and sit back. There is no need to hurry.”

But even as I ponder this concept for but a slip of a moment, I still tell myself, “Of course there is need to move along- look at all there is to be done.” The lines crease my forehead in a tell-tale way- too many years wishing for just five-more-minutes to get one more thing done. I can feel the tension moving through my neck and down into my back.

It takes every ounce of energy in me to relax and wait.

Later on, when the work of the day is over and done, I re-visit this idea of slowing down. I am quieter now- more willing to listen. More receptive.

After my thoughts settle a bit, I start to think back on the day. I recall seeing that little songbird that lighted on the weigela bush at dusk. It’s cheerful tune begging me to listen. I think of four newly crafted paintings left drying on my verhanda, the efforts of three sweet girls. I am prompted to recall a quiet morning spent in attentive concentration to the task at hand. I am reminded of the smell of the water just before the rain. The sound of the breeze rustling the Horse Chestnut branches just outside my window. The daffodils gently lilting, their fragrant heads down-turned.

I think of all there is to hear and see and attend to in our everyday world that presses us not a whit. Rushes us naught.
It is there for our pleasure. If we but take the time.

I think of dear ones now gone into eternity.  I wonder if they could have asked for just one more day, would that ever have been enough to quench the thirst for more time?

Why is it that to-do lists appear completely obsolete when one finds themselves immersed in the natural world thinking about the eternal?  It is all a matter of priority.

It is ironic that when our lives are lived out in the normal, mundane, a time when we could stop and take it all in: we don’t. Again I ask: why is it that only when we find ourselves facing uncertainty we take stock of our time and choose to spend it more wisely? We would do well to view our lives in retrospect once in a while. Reality has this way of gently reminding us every once in a while of what is important and what is not.

To-do lists and mental notes-to-self, as well-meaning and self-serving as they mean to be, are quite useless when one is facing priorities of the heart that really matter. We cannot take our to-do lists to the grave. Time is only at our disposal while we have it.

What we have today is our time. It can be spent lavishly or foolishly wasted. Managed or enjoyed.

“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” ― Mary Oliver

Why Motherhood Has Impacted my Teaching

Being a Mom has rewarded me in so many ways, particularly in my understanding of things concerning parent-teacher relationships and student-teacher relationships within in a school system. Disclaimer from the get-go: I realize that one does not have to become a parent so as to teach well and make a difference. I would never want that message to be understood because of anything stated (words or ideas) that is to follow. Good teachers come in all forms and packages. I know this with all my heart.

However, having stayed as a teacher without having had kids myself, I personally (knowing my unique personality and tendencies) would have been ‘less than caring‘ in my interactions with children; I know this about myself. In this way, having children was really the answer for me specifically in enlarging my understanding about care relationships within education. I have a friend without children and she is naturally (from probably birth) an absolute saint. She is so kind and sweet and tender-hearted toward children- something that took me years to even begin to master. I had to have four kids and fourteen years of parenting before I started to ‘get it’. And there are still things I am working on and know I never would have quite ‘gotten’ so well, had I not become a mother.

I absolutely salute anyone who works with children- parents, teachers or otherwise. We have much to learn from one another.

But for me—as a Mom, I am able to understand kids as children- not just as students. Each time I walk into a classroom, hallway, playground or corridor- I am reminded that these children I am interacting with are someone elses’ children. They belong to someone. Someone loves these children and these are treasured beings. They are absolutely beloved- cherished and adored by someone. And I hold this knowledge in the forefront of my mind as much as is possible- because I know how I want each of my four precious four to be treated. Just the way I am dealing with the children in my school: with the knowledge that they are someone’s loved child.

As a Mom, I am also able to understand parents as allies- not as the enemy. I am a mom to four fabulous kids. But I am also a teacher to amazing, fabulous kids. Each and every time I walk into my own four children’s world (whether that be a classroom they are situated in, a basketball court, a piano studio, a recital hall, a baseball diamond or a hockey rink)- I understand that this zone of proximity is not my official turf. I am physically outside my comfortable school-based perimeters. Put me in a school, and I am feeling that I am on the inside circle. But place me inside someone elses’ circle of influence, and I suddenly find myself somewhat outside my comfort zone. This is not a bad thing, but it reminds me how I want to be treated when not on my own turf. That is, with respect, dignity, thoughtfulness, justice and kindness. Outsiders wish these things for themselves because they know what it feels like to be on the borders. In the very same way, put me back in my classroom and I suddenly find myself on the inside again- in a comfortable place of respect and influence. But as I was on the outside at some point in time, it is never lost on me what this feels like. To be outside. I hold it again at the forefront of my mind with the greatest of regard. When a parent comes into my educational world, comes into my classroom and meets me on my turf: it is never lost on me what that feels like to be in their shoes. I don’t want to be viewed as the ‘enemy’ when I am outside my comfort zone. Neither do parents. We are all in this together- parents, teachers and otherwise. We need to see one another as allies and partners in purpose.

For we do better when we see each other for whom we truly are: people. We are People- all of us! People who care (albeit in different ways), people who want the best for their children (albeit again-sometimes in different ways) and people who would be willing to make whatever sacrifice is necessary so as to do what needs to be done for the benefit of the child. Parents are our greatest allies and we serve not only them but ourselves best when we strive to preserve and grow these relationships.

As a Mom who is also a teacher, here is something else I have been able to understand.  I am able to put the school day in perspective. School is part of life, but it is not all of life. Today, I asked a kindergartener what school was all about. Here’s what he said: ‘playing, eating and some working’. If this isn’t what school really is in kindergarten, then we have a problem Houston.

As a Mom, I have been challenged to act in my classroom as if there were always a parent in the room. Each of my students has a family support system behind them. They all have parents who love them, grandparents who adore them and a family network of aunts and uncles and cousins who are in their life vouching for their best interest. In my classroom, it is never far from my mind that each and every one of my students has a team behind them, working off the record at home and in the community, to support their learning. When I teach my students, interacting with them inside the classroom, I keep at the forefront that someone ‘outside’ loves them. Keeping this principle in my mind has enabled me to consistently act in ways that are loving (besides- if a parent was sitting in my classroom, wouldn’t that be the way I would respond to each child?), act in ways that are fair and just (because again, a parent would insist that this be the standard by which I deal with their child- and so should I), as well as act in ways that are compassionate (because what parent does not want a kind adult dealing with their children?). Added to this would be that I strive to act in ways that are positive and assistive (because every child deserves to learn in the ways they are equipped to learn by best).

Being a mom has grown me, stretched me and enabled me. But being a teacher has also done the same. In both capacities, I am learning that love is the most important foundation on which to build; am also learning that there is always enough love to go around. We always can find more, for each and every one of the students who have been placed in our lives. They are there for a reason. We are in their life for a reason. And much like the saying that emphasizes ‘we don’t often get to choose the children God places in our families’, we also don’t get that privilege as teachers either. You love the ones you’ve been given.

Because just like our own flesh and blood children: our kids at school need consistent caring love from us. And they know when that love is genuine and real. Their responses to us, much like those offered by our own children, are cushioned in the beliefs they have about themselves along with the beliefs they think WE have about them too.

So may all our beliefs as teachers be those that choose to support and uplift- just as an effective mom (or dad) would cherish the God-given brood they were given, so must teachers care for the ones they’ve been given as students too.

Happy Mother’s Day to all the Dads (who have to be moms too)


You can read this article again at the Huffington Post Canada.

Paul Bradbury via Getty Images

This Sunday is Mother’s Day, a day we traditionally honour and celebrate the mothers in our lives. Moms, grandmoms, great-grandmothers, step-mothers, adopted moms, surrogate mothers, mothers-to-be: they all get at the very least a nod of appreciation (if not a full-out display of love and affection).

So they should, of course. But I have been thinking more and more of the unofficial ‘mothers‘ who never get recognized on Mother’s Day, and I’m talking about the dads.

This is not to say that dads are mothers in the truest sense of the word. They will always be first and foremost a father — and as such, will always place most importance overall on their interactions with their kids as it concerns their being a father. But for some families, particularly for those who have lost a mother due to death or separation or some other form of difficulty, dads are playing both parental roles to the best of their ability.

Let me pause to say that I also recognize women do these very same things (act in dual parental roles), but let me save that blog article for Father’s Day when I recognize mothers.

Back to the fathers. These guys are moms to their kids, all while they are still being that incredible father they always were. I can think of one such dad close to our own family’s heart who lives this reality. He is currently dad and mom to his girls (girls who are still needing his love and attention in both a maternal and paternal way), as well as he is doing what his girls’ mom formerly did for them prior to her death.

As I watch the various dads I am coming to know and truly appreciate, many of whom have lost wives to cancer, I can’t help but observe the grace with which they have handled the passing on of their spouse. I am amazed and humbled to see that being a mother has been added to their job description. In true motherly-form, they are willing to do what it takes to be there for their kids.

What a legacy they leave for their beautiful families.

These guys are doing things they never use to do (as per the varied division of labour that occurs in any given family), and they are doing some of the things that Mom only once did. And playing these dual roles, solo; without the benefit of another partner to complement their parenting.

Things like being that sole parent there when their kids get home from school.
Things like planning birthday parties, attending festival performances and watching shows they aren’t accustomed to watching.
Things like attending meetings, appointments and practices without the advantage of tag-teaming with their other parenting counterpart.
Things like letting their kids know it is okay to cry — because they do too.
Things like arranging work schedules around their children.
Things like brushing hair and putting up ponytails.
Things like being that soft, warm place their kids can fall when life gets rough — because kids need this sometimes.

Are these aspects of parenting solely mom’s domain? Of course they are not. Surely, there are fathers out there who take charge in all these areas at the best of times, freeing up their wives to do other just as important parental tasks. But for those dads who NEVER had to take leadership in some of these areas before (or weren’t quite comfortable assuming this predefined role), this is new territory for them. These are unchartered waters.

And the fact that they are doing these new tasks solo is what endears them to me, a mother myself.

Rather than being criticized, these dads need to hear the words that they are doing an amazing job at parenting their children — playing the role of both partners in the absence of their female counterparts.

To all the dad-moms out there: “I know Father’s Day is coming up, but it is never too early to say that we appreciate you. As moms, we support you. You are doing an absolutely fabulous job at being there for your kids. Keep on keeping on, Dad. You make us all proud to be a parent.”

Happy Sunday to one and all — mothers, fathers or otherwise. And for all those dads out there who are both dad and mom: “you’ve got this, man.”

We’re all rooting for you.

For All Those Who Cannot Face Mother’s Day

When my mother turned 65, my sisters and I had pre-planned a quiet celebration for her at a local café called Samuel’s.  We met on a dreary Sunday afternoon for chai lattes, specialty coffees and cheesecake, while rain misted the windows and sidewalks outside the old heritage building housing the restaurant.  Upon leaving, we huddled together in the parking lot for a picture of this momentous occasion, quietly celebrated between three sisters, one sister-in-law and our beloved mother.  Shortly thereafter, we left and went our separate ways- unaware of what was to transpire just mere hours later.

That evening, my mother received a phone call from the manor where her sister and mother both resided, living side-by-side in adjacent rooms.  Her one and only remaining sibling, her sole (soul) sister, was physically very low.  Would she please come?  There were no guarantees of how much time was remaining.  My mom gathered up her belongings and left the next morning for Fredericton, and for the remaining two weeks prior to her sister’s home-going to Heaven, my mother stayed by her side.  Holding her hand.  Rubbing lotion into her soft skin. Adjusting pillows and uttering soft words of comfort.  Loving her sister the best way she knew how.

Little did my mama know that not even one year later- this time again just weeks prior to her 66th birthday, she would again make the trek to that same New Brunswick manor.  This time in the hopes that she would arrive in time to bid a tearful goodbye to her mother who had sadly fallen ill over the winter months and rather quickly took a turn for the worse mid-March.  Sorrowfully, Mom was not to be there for this quiet home-going.  She arrived to a closed door shut on an empty room, no welcoming smile to greet her.

All was silent.

I can’t imagine what that must have felt like to have seen the door shut like that.  To have realized that behind that closed door was no longer that comfort of the living. No tender smile or warm touch.  To my mom, there was the realizing that this chapter of her life- life lived with the constancy of family and heritage: it was now over.  Every one of her immediate family members- the ones she grew up with, lived with and loved- were now gone.  And all that awaited her upon arriving at the residence she had visited for so many years was the shell of the one she had forever before known as MOTHER.

This Sunday will be her first ever Mother’s Day lived without her mom.  I really can’t yet even imagine what this must be like.

There are so many people grieving the loss of a loved one in these difficult days leading up to Mother’s day.  There are children wondering how they will navigate the days leading up to this hugely celebrated holiday with its focus on cards, crafts and trinkets all made for mothers.  There are teenagers trying to process their feelings about what this all means and young adults trying to be there for their siblings in ways that a mother would, even though that is not entirely their burden to carry.  There are grown women who still crave their mother’s words of wisdom on the other end of the phone line or who yearn for the physical presence of their mother at the kitchen table; and there are husbands who are faced with being both mother and father to their Littles and Bigs, in the wake of their chosen partner in life’s passing to the Great Beyond.

How do we as people do these hard things?

Jason Tippetts, husband to Kara Tippetts of the beautiful blog Mundane Faithfulness wrote transparently these raw and beautiful words about life and its ebb and flow for those left behind:

“These are the events that I dread. I remember asking Kara to help me plan this year of firsts. I assumed a long and hard conversation, I would take notes and then feel better about the plan. But instead Kara’s answer was, “You will be great. You will know what to do!” Not the answer I wanted but it was the answer I needed. I needed to know that I could fumble through this, that I would do okay. That I could process through decisions without her input. I needed to know that whatever we as a family decided to do was okay. I so appreciate that freedom she gave me.”

To all those who are hurting right now and who dread this upcoming Sunday of celebration for one reason or another, know that whatever you decide to do (so as to pass the day, celebrate the day, commemorate the day or skip the day entirely for this year) it is all okay.

There is no right or wrong way to work through the pain of these difficult years of firsts.  You will know what to do when the day comes.  Do it and feel no guilt for your decision.

I know that there is no way to compensate for the loss of a loved one- no one human being can ever take the place of another precious soul.  But may we all be cognizant that there is much pain and heartache around us.  Sometimes the most beautiful of holidays can evoke the deepest anguish.

To all those out there who are hurting this Mother’s Day, may you find peace and strength and comfort from Above.

Love and light and hope to your and yours.

Dear You (For When You Need A Word of Encouragement)

“Most of us, swimming against the tides of trouble the world knows nothing about, need only a bit of praise or encouragement – and we will make the goal. “ – Jerome Fleishman

Dear You (For When You Need A Word of Praise):

Encouragement is like a love letter to the heart. It instantly lifts. Immediately upholds the soul both in times of mundane living (when the senses have been dulled) as well as supports in times of acute need, where much more intervention is necessary. Encouragement is the Balm of Gilead- the universal cure for the heart’s pain and hurt. It heals, restores, enables, engages. Encouragement is both a consolation as well as a joy to the heart of the hearer. We crave these words of support as we strive to live and press onward in our ordinary day-to-day living- need them even when life becomes complicated and hard to understand. For what we really need is something to persuade us to just.keep.going. We need encouragement.

How we need them, those words of affirmation and confirmation.

I am standing there in the church kitchen wiping dishes, sorting the cutlery into neat piles. Forks, knives, spoons, serving utensils. Routinely wiping and sorting, wiping and sorting…when he comes to stand beside me, an older gentleman whom I am not ordinarily inclined to chat with. We stand for a moment side by side and then he turns to me and says something I am not expecting. I am actually caught off guard for a moment. He tells me that he reads my blog articles and that in the reading, they have somehow meant something to him; enough so that he feels the need to share this sweet word of encouragement with me in this tender moment. He also shares that he reads my writing quite regularly, which is just so touching I cannot keep from smiling as he talks. I have not expected this at all- was not really aware. Nor did I realize how very much I needed this little bit of nudging and support so as to encourage me and spur me on.

After he leaves, I realize that this private exchange had (between two acquaintances) might seem insignificant to anyone but me. I might have continued to think such if I had not opened my email account later on in the day only to find that I had received a message from someone I know not at all. A person who tells me that they weep even as they write the letter- a stranger to me, yet a person willing to bear their soul; in their hurt and pain, the individual expresses to me how the discouragement they are feeling has wounded their spirit. Has all but pushed the individual to make decisions that would change the course of their career path. And it is as if we know each other intimately, for the details of this story are so similar to mine that I could have written the words of this letter myself.

My heart reaches outward. I just wish I knew what to say so as to help lift this individual from the hurt they feel.

In the moments in which I read the words, recalling back to the moments earlier when I was myself encouraged, I start to wonder if what we all need in life is a maybe a cheerleader assigned individually to each and every one of us. An avid personal enthusiast who ‘likes us, loves us, cares for us’- regardless what happens to act as a roadblock in our day-to-day living. Someone who is there behind us as we go through our lives, quietly supporting our work and living, even if from the sidelines. What we need is a devoted advocate who works tirelessly on our behalf. Someone who is willing to champion our cause, form our fan base, work up our support channels. I know I could certainly stand a fan or two such as I have just described.

For is this not what we need so as to be encouraged- an individual supporter or a group of followers to stand behind us as we walk this life’s road? Is this not the ideal?

Certainly, if you take in social media at all, this aspect of forming a fan base with a multitude of followers would appear to be the way to go; for everywhere you turn, there is the call to show support and public praise. It seems to be the sought-after prize these days. Pages on Facebook asking for ‘likes’ or photos on Instagram asking for hearts. Twitter left looking for ‘faves’. We are a people in need of encouragement, driven to rack up our support systems so that it becomes almost a popularity contest; it seems we are willing to do anything to get votes, even to the point of outright begging for them.

Is this what we all need? A fan base based on likes, hearts or favorites? Do we really need the approval of the crowd so as to find encouragement and sustenance for our journey on life’s rocky terrain? And if so, how would one go about getting the numbers so as to make any difference?

If what we need is a fan base, or at the very minimum- A FAN: how would one go about convincing another person to be that fan for them? Persuading another to selflessly act in ways so as to uplift and encourage on a regular basis, as the need arises? And who would we ask- a father or a mother? A best friend, spouse or partner? And what would happen in their absence? Would a sibling fill in? It seems a monumental task trying to derive a consistent base of support from which to draw from when life’s trials and troubles get us down.

Perhaps rather, what we really need so as to lift us from the slump of life’s ho-hum, everyday living is not so much a fan or fan base but this: to be ourselves the encourager, the one behind-the-scenes following and ‘favoriting’ the work of another: the fan of another person who needs a quiet word of encouragement or a humble nudge of approval. So that the work that person is found to be doing can then be acknowledged in some way; so that the life that person is living can be recognized and known. What we all need as a discouraged people is to be the followers of others in our lives so that the one’s we are quietly supporting from the sidelines are shown that THEY ARE TRULY VALUED. So that the people in our lives are shown that they are worth our time and effort. When we offer praise, isn’t it interesting how the focus of our emotions becomes less about us and more and more about the significant others in our lives? It seems that much of our own discouragement is dissolved just by our decision to be an encouragement to others.

What we truly need so as to be encouraged ourselves is to BE an encouragement to others.

Life can get people down- it’s a tough world out there and a hard place to navigate sometimes. Without people in their lives who truly see them for what they are worth, people can tend to forget the intrinsic value inherent in their being. That’s our job- to remind them. Without people in their lives who care and hold out for the best, people can so easily throw in the towel. That’s our job- to support them. Without people in their lives to offer comfort and solace and cheer when hardships seemingly overpower and overwhelm, people can forget sometimes that there are answers for the predicament that life’s trouble and pain pose. That’s our job- to offer that word of hope.

Because if we truly want to know how best to bring ourselves out of the weariness and discouragement we so often feel as people, the best way to do to this is to be ourselves an encouragement and advocate for others. It’s the antidote to discouragement.

Being that word of encouragement ourselves that others so desperately need is the way to refocus our eyes on what really matters, lifting our hearts in the process.

So to that dear One Who Is Struggling:
Be encouraged. Know that someone out there cares.
Be confident. Know that someone believes in you.
Be inspired. Know that someone stands behind you.
Be hopeful. Know that your life was created for a purpose.
Believe.

And know with all your heart that I’ll be standing by as your number one supporter.

Resilience

Life is filled with so many hard ‘little and big’ lessons. Some we learn through watching and others we learn by living. Today was a busy day which had me again rushing out the door coffee cup and papers in hand. After a crazy morning followed by a solid lunch hour of choir practices, I was out the school door with daughters in tow for the West Prince Music Festival. I had devoted my own dinner hour to the four school choirs, so I had little time to eat, clean up, do hair and practice with my own two girls before we were on our way to O’Leary. I had not allowed myself TOO much time (as that wouldn’t be like me AT ALL!), but I hadn’t left myself entirely to the last minute either. When we arrived, I was only 5 minutes behind schedule according to my calculations.
So you can imagine my surprise when, as we walked in the door, I heard my youngest daughter’s name being called from the front. I had barely stepped inside the facility, and was still wrestling with a stack of papers, my purse, a dripping wet coat and swinging water bottle when I saw my two daughters rushing to the front of the auditorium, with one of them making her way to the grand piano on stage, front and center.
I was myself in a daze, wondering how things had moved so quickly along that we were already at the time the youngest was to play. How could I have miscalculated the times so poorly? Then again…
To make matters worse- all manner of things was running through my head. I realized that the daughter that had been rushed on stage was also the one performing on stage for the first time. She was the one who gets embarrassed more easily of the two and she is the one most likely to be rattled by such an incident. So, with all these thoughts bouncing around in my head, I started up the aisle toward my daughter, who was now sitting at the piano so as to play her piece. You can imagine both our surprise when it was announced that actually, she WASN’T to play right then: that they had only called her name because they were just checking to see if she was there.
It was a courtesy call, so to speak.
This might be a minor incident in any other child’s life, but for the One of whom I write, it was horrifying. We sat down in our seat to wait the half an hour until she would officially play, but the damage was already done. She was mortified and began quietly sobbing into her sweater. I could think of nothing else to say but to murmur over and over again that is was okay, it was okay. And to hold her tight as I wracked my brain for the ‘right’ words to say.
For her, quite honestly, it wasn’t okay. She had been publicly embarrassed and this was not something she could easily overcome.
We eventually left the sanctuary and found a quiet place to talk about the experience. She shared her feelings and I tried to console her. Eventually, another mother came along and tried to convey the insignificance of such a minor mistake (that is, getting up on stage when it wasn’t your turn) while I nodded my head in affirming ways. My daughter wasn’t really buying it.
Eventually, we returned to the festivities. Only to find two other girls crying: one who had made a few mistakes in her piece and another quite possibly fraught with nerves. It was an interesting place to be for a while, and as a bystander, my heart went out to all the performers who are so very brave and valiant to take their music to the stage in such a public arena. It takes courage to perform in front of an audience.
All in all, my daughter was able to learn the protocols for performance on stage (unfortunately, through trial and error) but also she was able to see that she was not the only one going through a ‘moment’ this afternoon. These learning experiences are just part of discovery and growth, and they need not make us feel inadequate, incompetent or lacking in any way. Life goes on, as does the show- and we live and learn both through our mistakes as well as through our triumphs.
She ended up performing amazingly well. I was so proud of her and she was proud of herself. We worked through the awkwardness of the preliminaries and when we got to the performance, she was feeling relaxed and ready to go. When I asked her tonight if she would ever do this again, she responded with a yes.
Even if she doesn’t, I am glad that she was able to learn/confirm something about herself today that might not have been completely clear in her mind: that she is one resilient little gal. Made her mama proud.
And a pretty darn good piano player to boot! Did I mention…TWO GOLD STARS!!!!