We’ve all been there. Those moments of waiting. Waiting in the doctor’s office, waiting to check out at Target, or waiting in the pick-up line at the elementary school (Jesus, be near). We have a few extra minutes so we absentmindedly scroll through our phone and low and behold, we find ourselves looking through social media. Again. I’ve fallen into that trap more times than I can count. I have even found myself refreshing my screen just 30 seconds after clicking the home button on my phone. As if world peace may have occurred in those last 30 seconds, and I am missing the breaking news.
It was during one of those waiting moments that I scrolled along and stumbled across a video of a pre-school graduation program. It was not a video of anyone I know, but strangers or not, this scene was precious. The stage was adorned with short little people wearing dresses and bowties, all waving furiously at someone in the audience as they waited for the show to begin.
The Star of the Show
The intended highlight of the video was the little cherub in the front row. A little girl with short brown hair proceeded to steal the entire show from her fellow classmates as she grooved like no one’s business. The song was simple and Biblical, yet she was channeling some serious 70’s disco moves. She owned that stage. The audience was laughing and pointing with delight, entertained by her skills and impressed with her lack of fear as she showed the entire auditorium what she was made of.
As an outside observer, however, my attention was drawn elsewhere. Maybe it’s because I’m a teacher and it’s in my DNA to quickly scan a group of children to try and observe as much my brain can absorb in one glance. Or maybe it’s because I’m a mom of anxious kids, and it’s in my DNA to hone in on the tell-tale signs of fear, worry, or even a potential panic attack looming, revealing on the surface what’s already erupting on the inside.
It didn’t take more than ten seconds for me to spot her. Standing right next to the sweet girl stealing the show was another sweet girl who was clearly wishing, with every fiber of her being, that the show would just be over already. She stood still among a sea of kids who were swaying to the music and waving their hands in unison to the lyrics of the songs. She stood still, covering her face with her hands while they served as a personal shield to protect her eyes from making contact with the thousands of other eyes that were boring holes though her. As she stood still hiding her eyes, I could imagine how her mother felt sitting in the audience. My heart grieved because I knew she was likely feeling what most parents feel when they watch their child struggle. And I knew the private sadness she battled, knowing that her child was not the child everyone was applauding.
And then I read the comments.
I know better than to read the comments.
But I read the comments just the same.
The Harsh Reality
And they pierced my soul like a thousand knives. Vile words, dripping with judgement and contempt, began to fill the space on my iPhone screen. Fellow observers quickly commented on the quiet, still-standing girl. People quickly judged her mother for “forcing” her child to endure something clearly traumatic. This crowd quickly forgot that every parent most likely wants the absolute best for their child, but sometimes seemingly normal situations don’t play out as we expected.
As the comments rolled in, they praised the parents who raised the Star of the Show to “be confident” and comfortable just being herself. Simultaneously, just as many comments rolled in criticizing the parents of the quiet child for not seeking help or counseling for her. The problem, other than not being able to just say something nice, is that these commenters don’t know the whole story. They don’t see the culmination of the days, weeks, or years leading up to this moment. While it’s so much easier to conclude the worst, we should also try to imagine the possibilities.
What they don’t realize is that, quite possibly, this shy child has grown in confidence as she just finished a year of preschool where she began the first weeks in tears every day, yet ended the year learning all of her letter sounds and making her very first friend.
What they don’t realize is that maybe she grew in confidence every time she was away from her parents for a few hours a day and learned to trust another adult.
What they don’t realize is that she likely grew in confidence by discovering who she is through new experiences that will one day bond together with other experiences to create the incredible adult that she will become.
Give it Time
This quiet, nervous child is also being raised to be confident. The path just happens to be winding, the journey a bit more treacherous. Maybe her confidence doesn’t come easily or naturally, but she’s getting closer to finding it every day.
She has parents who may very well have been just as brave, and just as purposeful in the way they have raised their child. She has parents who likely realize that every child is uniquely created and often change course accordingly, altering their route as the road they’ve traveled along takes yet another detour. Let’s be honest, there are no two kids exactly the same! If that were true, my second child would have actually slept for the first year of her life because by example of my first child, I was under the impression that I was clearly a rock-star sleep-training mama!
Parenting gives us a shot of humility in all the right places.
When you’re the parent of a child who doesn’t dance for the crowd, doesn’t speak up for themselves, or doesn’t capture an audience, it can feel lonely and the world can be unforgiving. In spite of it all, you can be proud of the journey and the fight. You’re in the waiting moment. It won’t last forever. In time, every child will reveal their gifts to the world and help contribute to its beauty. Just keep waiting. And someday, your child, too, will have their time to dance.