A couple of weeks ago 2/3 of my crew participated in their school's Geography Bee. Officially, entrants were required to be in 4th-8th grade, but in our school qualifying 3rd graders were allowed to participate for the exposure and practice.
Unlike spelling bees where an incorrect answer results in elimination, the Geo Bee began with seven rounds where participants were scored/ranked based on the number of correct responses--but not immediately eliminated. This meant that a child could potentially miss several answers in a row but continued to have turns at the microphone.
The event lasted over two hours and was witnessed by the entire student population of grades 3-8. The faculty and students were supportive and polite, but when combined with difficult questions and inexperience, it was a fairly nerve wracking experience nonetheless. I marveled at the courage and composure of the 30 participating students.
I sat in the crowd, roughly 10 feet away from my two little participants--and I think the anxiety from simply observing took a few years off my life. It had nothing to do with their performance--which was, frankly, admirable. The stress I experienced as their loving Mama had far more to do with watching my most anxiety prone child struggle to maintain composure.
From 10 feet away, I could not coach. I couldn't shout encouragement. I could not even make eye contact based on the placement of the seats. All I could do was watch, pray and try my darndest to muster some sort of ESP that would remind him of the calming/encouraging phrases I have attempted to plant in his heart. And yet, when he missed a question in the third round, he squenched up his face as he walked across the stage back to his seat. I saw the heavy sigh. I watched his downcast eyes and shaking shoulders--and even as his sister attempted an encouraging word from the folding chair next to him on stage, a tear or two fell down his face.
The next round started and he appeared to regain some confidence--until he approached the microphone again and his answer was incorrect. The whole process repeated itself. Except this time his sister didn't do much consoling. (No judgment there--she is only nine--and was managing her own nerves as a participant.)
I wanted to hug him. I wanted to remind him that THIS IS HARD. YOU ARE BRAVE. I AM PROUD OF YOU. And that instead of panicking over missed answers, I was rejoicing over the correct ones. This was about the experience--not winning.
But instead, the situation required that I sit quietly in my seat, practicing my own breathing exercises and thinking about the metaphor of life and parenthood. This went on for the last four gut wrenching rounds.
As infants our children are never far from our sides. Many mothers even 'wear' them so that all needs can be met, all emotions consoled with immediacy. As they learn to stand and walk we don't wear them anymore, but we stay within arms' reach to snatch them up from dangerous situations or to catch them when they start to topple towards a fall. My children are too big to carry these days. For better or for worse, they stand, move and speak on their own.
While I am certainly not ready to send my children out to fend for themselves, we have crossed the halfway mark of their time at home and my role is changing. With each trip around the sun, our role as parents seems to be to give a little more space until suddenly we find ourselves on sidelines and in audiences--unable to whisper in the moment or catch them before they fall.
And it is hard. We must be brave.
We must be intentional--coaching when we can and planting truths in hearts and minds so our kiddos are equipped to call upon them when needed. When our children are in situations where we can't actively speak, it is essential that their own inner voice is recalling messages that have been proactively planted there. As believers, we pray their ears have been trained to hear the Holy Spirit's voice and they are listening to what He is whispering to their little hearts.
My children will turn 10 this year. Our issues aren't yet 'serious'--which is exactly why this is the season for coaching, training, encouraging and filling up.
It terrifies me sometimes. I know I can't prepare them fully and specifically for each little pothole or fork in the road. This is where Kari Kampakis' advice rings in my ears, "We don't prepare the road for our children, we prepare our children for the road." This is the way our Heavenly Father parents us.
I've been wrestling for a couple of weeks with how to do this well--with God-confidence. This morning in Sunday School two verses jumped off the page and into my heart.
...being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus." Philippians 1:6 NIV
The one who calls you is faithful, and HE will do it.
I Thessalonians 5:24 NIV
They are His. He is trustworthy. He will see this through.