His third day of middle school and he wore these socks. An older lady gave each of the pastors several pairs (I have no idea why) and Kenny took one look at them and said he would never wear them and Cooper snatched them up. Last year in elementary school, he was known by his socks- long, glow in the dark fluorescent green ones, fuzzy ones with Christmas ornaments on them in the middle of May, and ones that have caused grown adults to advise him he looked like a girl and never wear them again. I figured that fashion statement had died in elementary school…..until today.
While I have been worried for the past three days about how he will adjust to middle school, how he would “fit in”, whether or not he had the right binder and knew the combination to his lock, he was fine. And I was not. By day three he was comfortable being himself, socks and all. It never occurred to him that middle school would be anything other than amazing. I had thought of all the things that could go wrong and how I would talk him out of feelings of unworthiness when he got home. I never needed those parenting strategies. On his first day, he said he walked up the wrong set of stairs and everyone was going down and he was the only one going up. I panicked for him. I was wondering if he was made fun of or if he felt insecure, etc. He just laughed it off and said, “Next time I knew which stairs to take!” No big deal. For me, that would have been a defining moment. One more way that everyone else knew what to do and I didn’t. I learned in that conversation what it meant to be brave at 11 and decided I wanted what he had.
My whole life I have struggled with insecurity, not ever feeling like I measured up, and wishing I fit in like other people. As early as I can remember, I have not wanted to be different than everyone else. I went to great lengths NOT to be noticed as outside what I thought was the “norm.” After years of counseling, prayer, and good friends speaking truth to me, I still have not overcome the fears I have battled my whole life. That I was not acceptable. That I was on the outside and somehow everyone else was on the inside. That everyone else knew how to do this “life” thing and I was in the dark. That I would get it together one day like everyone else and here I am. Somehow I still don’t have it together.
As I have raised my children, I have feared them failing. Not because it would make me look bad or because I needed them to succeed, but because I was operating with the mindset that I had growing up- failure is crushing because I am defined by my successes. If I never try, I cannot fail. So as they have wanted to try new things, I have been very reluctant. I have not told them so but I have deep rooted fear that they will only get hurt if they put themselves out there.
My seventeen year old decided six months ago he wanted to be a runner. Simple- he started to run. He did not weigh out how he would accomplish the entire sport of racing. He just put on his shoes and ran the lake. Now as a senior he has joined the cross country team. I would have not done that if my life depended on it in high school. But he never thought twice about it. He trains every day, takes his wins and losses, and tries to improve all the time.
I have done some running in my life and at one point I was running 5K races regularly. Then I had some injuries and had given up the sport I never even really liked. On Monday after the kids returned to school and I finally had a day not already planned for me, I put on my running shoes and made it all of two miles before I fell onto my couch, exhausted. I already wanted to give up. The self-talk in my head was saying, “You can’t do this. You are never going to be good at running. You are too old. You are too fat.” After one day I wanted to give up! But as I ran today, I thought of how brave my son was. Joining a cross country team the last year of high school and never doubting he could do it. In that moment when I was sure I was never going to succeed, I kept running because I knew if my 17 year old could be brave so could I.
Last year, my fifteen year old son decided two weeks before guitar auditions for Harrison that he wanted to learn classical guitar and try out. Mind you, he did not even know how to hold a classical guitar at that point. His instructor told him he needed a year to prepare for the audition. I don’t think my son even heard those words because after 3 lessons he went into a room with his guitar and the teacher and played. I sat outside the room, overcome with panic and fear. I tried to listen through the thick door and when it came to sight-reading not a note was being played. I was texting my husband the whole time with “THIS WAS A VERY BAD IDEA.” I did not want him to feel the pain of rejection because from what I was NOT hearing coming out of that room it was not going well. He was not only accepted into the program but a year later was accepted into the most elite guitar group at Harrison. As I have watched him practice hours everyday, it never occurred to him not to try because he might fail. That was not an option in his mind. It certainly was in mine!
My oldest son joined the Army last year. With so many unknowns and a lot of questions we were unable to answer, he got on a bus and went to boot camp. With total strangers. And knowing he had some emotional wars to fight in the process. I could not believe that after all he had been through that he had the strength but he did. Seeing him graduate from basic training was one of the proudest moments of my life. He did it and he continues to do it as he works for our country.
My husband is also a very confident person and I keep thinking my kids must have gotten it from him. So I am the only female in our family and the only one who struggles with insecurity. What do I do now? I learn from them. I allow myself to dream the impossible and go do it. Instead of quitting something because I think I will fail, I stay with it. Even when I realize I won’t be the best, the fastest, the skinniest, or the most graceful, I run. And I believe I can do it. WOW. Those are hard words to even write.
I wonder how many other people are held back by self-doubt and insecurity. What could we do if we just tried? Risked? I don’t know what this chapter holds for me but for one thing I am sure- the boys and men in my life have a lot to teach me and I am blessed to be spectators in their lives. They make me brave.