Will Fear Stop You?

I had a great conversation with a friend yesterday.  We were talking about the “what’s next” journey…  you know, that conversation where you look into the future and plan the next step of your career or life or existence or whatever.  My friend brought up the topic of fear, which is a natural and all too common emotion when contemplating the future.  He had come to the conclusion that most of us have fear in one way, shape or form.  They key is addressing the fear for what it is, and not letting it keep us from taking steps to live more fully. The conversation reminded me of a blog post I wrote when my daughter was in kindergarten and how she refused to let fear keep her from succeeding.  We would all do well to take a lesson from the then 6 year old. Here it is…

Last night, my 6 year old, a kindergartner of extraordinary talent, charm and cuteness, performed in her first official school musical: Down by the A-B-Sea. This maritime themed program is a showcase of sorts to let parents, grandparents, great-grand parents, uncles, aunts, cousins, neighbors, friends, and anyone else remotely associated with the child performer see that the last 6 months of school have not been just fun and games. On the contrary, these little critters are actually learning how to read and write. The kids sing songs emphasizing the sounds letters make (“M” is mmmm), perform skits that display their grasp of how words begin with letters (“B” is for “beluga whale”), and fill in the speaking parts by waving, picking their nose, and looking at everything in the auditorium except their teacher.

In our family, these events are celebrated with much ado and anticipation. When one of our kids has one of these programs, we dub the evening their “Special Night”. So, on the day of the program, after making such a fuss about and around her, we were taken aback when we observed that my usually happy-go-lucky daughter was quite glum. So I asked her, “Are you nervous?” And that opened the flood gates. “Daddy, what if I mess up my lines? Everyone will laugh at me”. I hugged her and I reassured her that people don’t laugh at kindergartners. They just chuckle and smile because kindergartners are cute. I then told her that if she got too scared while on stage, she should just think about everyone in the audience in their underwear. (I remember that worked for Marcia Brady, or Laurie Partridge, or some other 70’s sitcom queen). That cheered her up a little, and off we went to the performance.

We settled in our seats and wouldn’t you know it, my girl’s class was up first. She was “W”, which is for “wolf-fish”. So she stood at the end of the line, waiting patiently for her turn. One by one, each kid recited their lines, some good, some garbled. A-B-C (this is going to take forever) D-E-F-G (I hope I remembered to TiVo “The Office”) H-I-J-K (it’s only 6:35? This thing started at 6:30!) L-M-N-O (sit down lady. Your kid is “Z”. Wait your turn) P-Q-R-S (OK, getting ready) T-U-V (EVERYONE SHUT UP NOW!!!!! SHE’S ABOUT TO SPEAK!!!!).

Then came some of the sweetest, toothless words I’ve ever heard: “W is for wolf-fish. Wolf-fish have large teeth and thtrong jawth that are uthed to open their favorite foodth: thcallopth, clamth and muthelth).

Perfecto! She nailed it. That’s my girl. And I’m not sure whose smile was bigger, hers or mine.

After the program, she bounded off the risers and made a bee-line for me, jumped up, put her little arms around my neck and squeezed real hard. She didn’t say anything, but the message was clear: “I did it Daddy. I did it.” She was so proud of herself, and I reveled in her delight.