There are writers whose words inspire me to breathe deeply, take a moment, and give into the power that softly lilting phrases have over me. There are bloggers and people who I talk with on Twitter and think about as I wander through the pages of the book I’m reading. And then there are people like Lara. She is both. I am honored that she is here today for Growing Together, sharing a beautiful story of growth with her little girl. A story that will speak to you, I’m sure, as it did me.
Enjoy her story here today and be sure to visit her at Joy, Lovely Joy!
My daughter clambered through the front door after school one day, spun into the kitchen, and slapped a piece of paper on the counter in front of me. “You need to sign this,” she said. I glanced down and saw Talent Show Auditions printed at the top of the page.
“The talent show? What are you going to do?”
“I dunno,” she said, still spinning across the hardwoods. She stopped to grab a granola bar from the pantry. “But I want to do it.”
This would be the third year she’s announced that she wants to do the talent show only to change her mind a few days later. I didn’t think this year would be any different. The paper sat in an accumulating pile of papers on the kitchen counter until the day before audition forms were due.
“Mommy, you need to sign the form,” she said as I tucked her into bed. “Tomorrow’s the last day to turn them in.”
I had assumed she’d changed her mind. I also assumed she didn’t really understand what she was getting herself into.
“You know that you’ll be on stage in front of teachers and your classmates?”
I told myself that I wanted her to be prepared so she wouldn’t freeze with shock when her turn came. In hindsight I realize that I was steering her away from auditioning in an attempt to protect her from disappointment.
“Mommy,” she said, drawing out the ‘o’ in mommy, a sure sign of annoyance or exasperation. “Of course I know that.”
Lately, I’ve needed to remind Mia that when someone speaks to her she needs to speak back. When someone says hello or good morning, it’s kind to reciprocate. And when she does do these things, I need to remind her to speak up. Her voice that has no trouble carrying through the house suddenly becomes mouseling-quiet in front of strangers or people she doesn’t know very well. I had a difficult time melding together this child and the one who claimed to want to stand on stage alone in front of her entire school to perform an as-of-yet unstated talent.
“I’ll sign the form,” I said. “But what are you going to do?”
“Jump rope,” she said, and when she smiled I saw two grown-up teeth poking through the space previously occupied by chiclet baby teeth.
A few days later Mia received an audition day and time, and then she promptly forgot about it.
“Don’t you need to practice?” I would ask her. “Do you have a routine? Are you using music?”
She brushed me off. Once in a while I would catch her jumping rope on the back deck, but whether or not she jumped with her audition in mind I couldn’t say. I was at once frustrated that she wasn’t preparing more and in awe of her self-confidence.
The night before the audition, she informed me of the song she planned to jump to, and I spent the next hour trying to track it down on iTunes or elsewhere, all the while gently scolding her for not thinking of it sooner. The truth is, up until that point I still believed she would back out. I even tried to prompt discussion that would allow her an out, but she wasn’t biting.
Finally, I asked, “Don’t you think you’ll get nervous?” And that’s when my husband wisely stepped in.
“It’s okay if she gets nervous,” he said, throwing a cutting glance in my direction that told me to back off. He was right, of course.
When I tucked her into bed that night, I asked her if she was ready. She nodded, kneading her blanket in her palm the way she’s done since a toddler, the CD that’s lulled her to sleep every night for the past seven years playing in the background.
“I’m ready,” she said, and I realized with an aching clarity that I wasn’t. I listened to the lyrics wafting through her room, the same lyrics I listened to as I rocked her as a newborn, and marveled at the girl whose unruly tendrils spilled onto the pillow, whose fingernails were painted sparkle blue, whose legs had slimmed and lengthened, whose feet could now fit into my socks. Mia’s childhood is something buttery slipping through my fingers even as I try to grasp at it.
Her audition was scheduled for 4:05. I pulled into the parking lot at 3:55 and raced into school. I peeked through the closed doors of the audition room only to see Mia on stage and out of breath. She was done. But when I stepped into the room, she caught my eye and smiled that cavernous, gap-toothed smile. She was beaming.
“I messed up,” she told me. “I dropped the rope and tripped a few times.”
“Did you have fun?” I asked.
“Yeah,” she said. “But I don’t think I’ll make it.” Then she let go of my hand to catch up with her friend.
As I watched her skip ahead of me, I started to pick up on the lesson my daughter was teaching me. While I worried over her lack of preparation and wondered if her ability to jump rope was stretching the word talent a bit too far; while I fretted over stage fright and possible peer reactions and resulting disappointment, she raced straight into the ring, jumped her heart out, and had fun. I realized that the worries I tried to project onto her in the name of protection were my own fears, not hers.
And so this is where I’m growing, little by little. I’m learning to let her feel the buzz of butterflies and the sting of a fall and the electric charge of stepping outside her comfort zone. I’m learning that those lengthening legs will carry her out my door one day and into a world of her own making, and as much as I would rather pack her in bubble wrap and stick her into my pocket for safe keeping, that’s no life for a girl. No, it’s best to race into the ring, feeling the zip and zing of it all against her skin.
I’m a freelance writer and editor, lover of books and coffee, collector of words, mama to three, and blogger at Joy, Lovely Joy. Soon after we survived that arduous first year with twins I felt a fog lift and could see the outline of a routine begin to take shape. I started blogging then as a creative outlet, not realizing the connections I would make with like-minded mothers and writers who get me thinking and laughing and asking questions. I love this community and would love to connect with you at Joy, Lovely Joy. You can also find me on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. P.S. She made the talent show.