It didn't go well.
He stood on his designated "X" for the first few bars of music, looking pale white. He tapped his foot slightly, but otherwise stood there frozen, that is until he decided to collapse horizontally on the floor and cry hysterically. His teacher scooped him off the stage and delivered him to my lap, where he silently cried for the remainder of the performance.
I've analyzed and analyzed and over analyzed the conditions under which this stage fright breakdown occurred. He was a little sick that week. He was overtired. He had been going through an aggressive phase. He was too young. He was shy. Or maybe he just doesn't like standing in front of a crowd. I can't say I really blame him.
In any event, as this week's "spring performance" approached I started to get anxiety over yet another onstage breakdown. But I held out hope because this time around he LOVED doing his little dance routine. He would do it for us every night, try to teach it to us, and then correct us when we were doing it wrong. He would sing the songs. And he would smile the biggest smiles while he was doing it.
On Tuesday, the day of the performance, we got him dressed in his black pants and white shirt and made promises of presents, hugs, and chocolate milk. And Braden was excited.
|He had to leave the guitar at home.|
I recognized the look. The look of fear. Anxiety. Of get me the hell off of this stage right now or I will lose it in front of everyone. I went and got him before the performance even began and asked him if he wanted to be in the show, or if he wanted to sit with mommy. He wanted to sit with mommy.
We watched the show together. He stood on my lap and watched his friends and subtly did the dance moves himself. I periodically asked him if he wanted to go join his friends for the next number, to which he would emphatically say, No!!!
He was okay. But me, I don't know. There was a point during a dance routine to Justin Bieber's "Baby, Baby, Baby" where I actively was holding back tears.
What the hell is wrong with me? I thought. How incredibly selfish and immature and ridiculous?
I got over it. But I've thought a lot about why I had that reaction. And here it is:
I don't want Braden ever to feel scared. Or anxious. Or overwhelmed. Or pressured. I want him to feel safe and loved and secure.
I want him to feel free.
I want him to be able to dance like no one is watching. Even if everyone is.
Because that kid loves to dance.
That look I saw on his face up there - I never want to see that look.
I wanted to hug him so tight that he would forget he ever felt that way.
And I want to protect him so that he will never feel that way again.
But I can't.
And he will.
It may not be at a dance performance (and if he wants to sit out every stupid school performance for the rest of his life, I'll support him wholeheartedly).
But it will be on a playground. Or at a sports game. Or with friends. Or with a girlfriend. Or with a career.
This world is a cruel, scary place.
And Braden will be sad sometimes. And scared sometimes.
And I can't do anything about it.
But God, I want to. If I could spend the rest of the minutes of my life expending every bit of energy to ensure that my little boy never felt an ounce of fear or pain or sadness, I would do it.
Life doesn't work that way.
And sitting there with Braden in my lap watching his friends rock it out to a Justin Bieber song, I guess it hit me.
This releasing him into the world thing is going to be hard.