I know her heart.
I know the thoughts and the feelings that power her actions as if they were my own.
Because they are my own.
I walk tall into new situations with my head held high and my smile big and wide. Not because I want to. Not because my heart tells me to. But because for years I’ve told myself that shy is not a way of life. That I should change. Conform. Be outgoing. The world, I have convinced myself, rewards outgoing. And I must be what the world rewards.
But I am not outgoing. And neither is she. I’d prefer to take in new situations slowly, peeking around my mother’s skirt and feeling safety in the clutch of her hand. And so would she.
But I’ve convinced myself that the world rewards outgoing. That jumping in with both feet, without fear of falling, is the only way. And so I force myself to go out and jump.
And then, I force her.
I ignore our hearts and I force us out there.
This weekend, we started a new year of dance class much like we ended the last year. She held back, she clung, she just didn’t want to go into that room. I forced, I cajoled, I tried everything to get her out there.
She felt bad. I made her feel worse.
M brought back the positive, just like he did before. He told her he was proud of her for trying to go to class. He asked her to try harder next week.
And she replied, “Yeah. I didn’t to go in today. But that’s ok! I’ll try next week!”
I cried. I cried because she missed a dance class that I knew would be fun if she could just go inside. But, more than that, I cried because I can’t seem to get over myself and be there for my girl. I can’t stop viewing her shyness as I view my own, as a weakness. I cried because she inherently knows that yes, it is ok. It is ok to try, and not succeed, and try again. It is ok to be yourself. It is OK. And bit-by-bit, my actions scream to tell her she is wrong.
I cried because her thoughts and feelings are my own. And now I need to deal with them. I cannot bury them. The stakes are higher.
We left the studio, while her classmates danced. We headed home to grab her swim suit and left again to meet up with friends at a fountain full of kids enjoying the waning summer heat. I wanted to cancel. I had even threatened canceling in my attempts to get her to dance. But we went.
Her friend was already soaked when we arrived. Running around without a care as water shot into the sky around her.
But my girl, she clung to my leg. She shook her head when we dangled her swim suit in front of her.
And this time? I let her.
I hugged her close and, with all of the reassurance I could muster, I squeezed her while we watched her friend dance in the water.
And you know what? Within ten minutes, she shed her shoes and went to dip in a toe. Then two toes.
Soon she was changing into her swimsuit and holding my hand as we walked the perimeter of the fountain.
And before I knew it, she was there. In the middle of the fountain, far outside my reach, dripping wet and pouring out excitement everywhere.
And looking back for me every minute or so.
I breathed easier on the way home. My heart, and, I hope, hers too, just a little bit healed from the pain of the morning.
It is OK to be shy. It is OK to warm up slowly, walk cautiously, jump only when we feel we can withstand the fall if we need to. It is part of our process.
And, bit-by-bit, I actually believe that to be true.