It was a Friday afternoon in early January when my 6-year-old came bounding off the bus, bubbling with excitement. “Mom, I have the coolest thing in my backpack!” she shouted as she ran up our front walk.
I figured she wanted to show me her latest art project or a special treat from a classmate. Instead, she pulled out a sheet of pink paper titled “Kindergarten Performance Day.”
“We get to do a special talent in front of our entire class,” she explained, “and guess what I’m going to do!” She didn’t wait for me to reply. “Gymnastics! I’m really good at gymnastics!”
My heart sank a little at her announcement. Perhaps it was my own avoidance of front-and-center situations as a kid, or my hesitancy about being “live” in front of a crowd now. In that instance, I wanted to put her into a protective bubble that would shield her from any critique by the outside world — or, in this case, her kindergarten class.
At the same time, I was in awe of her enthusiasm for and confidence about participating in this optional event. There was no doubt in her mind that she was going to take part — and that her classmates were going to be amazed by her acrobatic skills.
I found myself wishing I could freeze the moment so I could preserve her confidence, excitement, and innocence, and wondering how I, as her mom, could somehow permanently instill these characteristics in her so she could tap into them anytime she felt her self-assurance wavering.
Most of us probably had a similar attitude as my kiddo when we were young. At some point, though, a lot of us became less willing to take chances — whether it was partaking in a school performance day, trying a new sport for the first time, or saying no when it was easier to say yes (for more on this, see page 54). We became jaded about sharing our skills, abilities, and hidden talents because of our fear of the potential responses or risks.
But this reluctance prevents us from sharing our amazing capabilities — whatever they may be at any given time in our lives. So what can we do to reclaim this childlike confidence?
According to author Brené Brown, PhD, LMSW, learning to be hopeful is one key. In her 2012 best-selling book, Daring Greatly, Brown writes: “Hope isn’t an emotion; it’s a way of thinking or a cognitive process. . . . Hope is a combination of setting goals, having the tenacity and perseverance to pursue them, and believing in our own abilities.”
I remember having an “aha moment” when I first read that, realizing that it’s our own mindset, not the outside world, holding us back.
Then there was this from Brown: “Raising children who are hopeful and who have the courage to be vulnerable means stepping back and letting them experience disappointment, deal with conflict, learn how to assert themselves, and have the opportunity to fail.”
My instinct to protect my daughter’s innocence was normal. More important, though, was my willingness to support her choice to participate. She might fall, she might get teased, she might come home disappointed. But she wanted to try.
So I spotted her as she practiced her routine of flips, splits, and backbends. Then I sent her on her way, a little nervous, but also full of hope.