Thursday, May 24, 2012

Tiny Dancer

Back in December, Braden had his first "performance" at school.  It was a mix of holiday songs and some choreographed dancing.

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. 
But when we took our seats in the audience, and I caught a glimpse of Braden's face, I knew it wasn't going to happen.

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.


  1. He'll be an adult one day, and he'll be much better off for having experienced all the fear and pain and sadness you wish you could shield him from. It's our job to help them remember that someone loves them and that they have the ability to pick themselves up and keep going.

  2. Oh, that was so hearbreaking! I totally know that feeling of wanting to shield your kid from ever feeling awful and disappointed and hurt. Pain sucks, but watching your baby go through pain is all but unbearable. Everytime Judah cried hard I seriously felt my stress-level shoot up to ridiculous levels.

  3. Watching them grow up is hard. And watching them get hurt is hard. But as I say to Michael "it is okay to be scared, but you have to do it anyway."

  4. I know I am going to struggle with this too! But I keep trying to tell myself that facing adversity is a skill and so its good to learn how to face it. I hope I can remember that when Anne is older!


  6. You're not always going to be around to rescue him. It is better for him to learn how to deal with uncomfortable feelings now, with smaller things, than to become an adult and have no coping skills to deal with bad situations.

  7. Oh - I love this! It really is hard to watch your child "sit out." I remember BEING that child - it was hard enough to live it, let alone re-live it through my own children. But I'm okay. And I learned from my various experiences with insecurity and feeling left out. Incidentally, almost all of the latter were self-inflicted. A HUGE lesson right there... Anyway - as hard as it might be for me to watch what I remember, at least I have a view of the other side!

  8. A very touching post. And something only a parent can truly understand.


Copyright ©2011 Small Bird Studios| All Rights Reserved |Free Blog Templates at Small Bird Studios