Has your child ever been nervous about something?
Let's say your child has started a new sport. And the new sport has a specific uniform, as many sports do. And has specific skills to learn, as many sports do.
And it's the first day. And your child is in uniform. And is a little nervous. What do you say to them?
"It's ok! Put on a smile and do your best!"
"Everyone has a first day when they start - it will be fine!"
Or maybe we even get a little frustrated and tell them they are being silly, that everyone else is wearing the same thing and doing the same thing... just get over it.
"Just give it everything you have - no reason to feel silly!"
I got to experience a little something that has certainly changed my perspective on how to handle those types of anxieties and nerves.
About 2 months ago, Teagan started Tae Kwon Do. Within 6 weeks, she had earned her yellow belt. The school then had a Parent Workshop - an opportunity to take a short class with your child and then have questions answered, learn more about the philosophy of the school, and learn how to best support your child.
Turns out, one of the ways they believe you can best support your child is by signing up to take 4 weeks of classes. For free. I get that it's really a great sales pitch and that at the end of my 4 weeks, they will be very complimentary and will want me to sign a contract at a special one time only rate.
I signed up.
And I went to my very first class last night.
I put on the uniform. White pants. The white shirt that has a weird elastic thing inside. The white belt.
And I felt ridiculous.
But the look on Teagan's face... she was positively beaming.
So I went to class. Actually, we went together to a family class.
And as I sat on the floor, waiting for the class to be called on to start...
I felt ridiculous again. And got this knot in my stomach. And I was suddenly very uncertain about what I was about to do and what kind of ungraceful idiot I was going to appear to be.
And it struck me that this is probably how my youngest son feels at just the thought of doing a class like this. And that this is how my daughter must have felt on her first day.
I'm generally a confident person.
But signing up for TKD? Signing up to do something that I've never done before, never had any interest in before, something that has never even been part of my radar?? Standing in front of kids and adults and Black Belt Master and trying to balance or kick or punch or do forms?
I don't have the brain power to memorize Korean terms (counting to 10, terms for school and uniform, how to say thank you, etc).
I'm old and fat and jumping jacks make me pee a little.
How can I possibly think that this was a good idea? I was ready to tuck tail and run.
And then Teagan grabbed my arm and said...
"Mommy, I'm so glad you're doing this with me!"
During class, I felt fat. And old. And terribly out of shape. Thankfully, the jumping jacks were not pee producing. I felt silly and I felt awkward. I understood exactly why my daughter gets that grin on her face - because sometimes it just feels silly.
It was an important lesson on confidence and humility.
I'm not exactly sure what I will tell my kids the next time they face something new... but I do know that I will look back on this and remember the feelings. And I know I won't be just telling them to suck it up and try their best.
Life lessons. Taught by stepping into my daughter's shoes. Pretty powerful!