Friday, April 5, 2013

Facing Fear

Every once in a while, we have a parenting conundrum around here.  When we're not really sure that the right thing is to do.

Well I guess in some sense I have no idea what to do every day, but you know sometimes, the issues seem more weighty than deciding whether I really want to insist on my 11 year old wearing clean underwear or whether I should save my currency for homework wars.

Our school district has an annual speech event.  Starting in grade 4 every student writes and delivers a speech to their class. A few in each class are selected to present their speeches in the gym to the full school and some parents.

Sydney started writing her speech a year in advance.  It was about the awesome power of candy.  By the time grade 4 rolled around, she was adamant about one thing: she did not want to give her speech "in the gym". 

Since she is articulate, thoughtful and talkative, we have more than a few discussions over why. She says doesn't like to speak in front of other people.  She actually has pretty good stage presence -- she is not one of those people who freezes when the spotlight shines on her.  I have seen her on more than one occasion excel in this area.
Not really knowing whether she might be chosen to go to the gym, I was really torn whether to push her to do something and not cave into fear. Or to allow her to decide for herself and just chill out. 
I feel like all of parenting is walking that tightrope: pushing too much, or not pushing enough.
In the end, I opted for a middle ground. I asked her to give it serious consideration and to take into account what I was saying: it was an honour and something she is good at. I thought not only that she could do it, but she could do it well.  I told her that once she made her decision I would accept it and not try to change her mind.

She thought about it for a week and walked me through her decision not to do it.  I spoke not another word about it.

I picked my girl up from a play date in late February and she had a sly look on her face.  She had been chosen to go "to the gym". And she said yes.

And she was pretty darn pleased with herself.

Today she gave her speech to the school and parents and I was very proud that she faced her fears.  She did amazing, but I told her I was proudest not of the job she did, but her willingness to do something she found scary.