As we approached the expansive green field, we saw it, the swarm of about a hundred 3 and 4-year- olds, all eagerly awaiting to find out which soccer team they were going to be on. My oldest, not quite four yet, clung with vigor to my leg, filled with what I imagine to be a perfect little combo of bewilderment and terror. There was a part of me that just wanted him to walk right up and grab his orange shirt and sit down with his team. I wanted it to be easy for him. I wanted him to feel comfortable. I wanted him to feel like he fits in. I wanted him to like soccer. No, I wanted him to love soccer.
But there was also a part of me that felt very connected to him in that moment, that moment where he was clinging to my leg and saying, "Mommy, you come with me to get my shirt" and "Mommy, you come with me to the team circle." And that feeling of connection is what led me to say, "Yes, I'll go with you, Monkey." Because doing new things is hard. New places, new people, new experiences. That's hard stuff. It's hard because we don't know what to expect. We don't know how things will go. And we don't always know how we're supposed to act or what to do. I get it, buddy. In this moment, you feel vulnerable and vulnerability is often scary. And vulnerability is beautiful. I get it. You know why I get it? Because I often feel the same way when I find myself in new places and new experiences. I do.
And just as my little man has been finding his way in preschool this year, and now at soccer, I am finding my way in motherhood. I had to give myself permission to be anxious and uncomfortable at preschool drop-off at the beginning of the year. Just as preschool was new and unknown for my boy, navigating the world of preschool parents and relationships was new and unknown for me. How will other moms perceive me? How do I connect with these parents? What if I don't fit in? What if I don't dress cool enough (because let's face it, running tights are not that cool. or flattering. at all.)? What if we do things differently in our family? How will the teacher perceive me? What if I am misunderstood? I hate being misunderstood. What if I say the wrong thing, or I say something that doesn't reflect how I really feel? I wish, just like I wish for my little guy, that I didn't care about these things, that I felt totally comfortable in new places. I wish new experiences felt like a breeze for me. But they don't. They don't. They feel uncomfortable and I almost always feel vulnerable. So, if they feel that way for me, I can only imagine how terrifying they must feel for my little not-quite-four-year-old. It's good for me to remember that.
It's good for me to identify with how he feels. Because it reminds me that the best thing I can do for me, and the best thing I can do for him, for both of my kids, is to keep showing up. I can give myself permission to feel vulnerable, to feel anxious, AND permission to be brave and show up. (Thank you, Brene Brown for helping me to realize this! If you haven't read her book, Daring Greatly, do yourself a big favor and check it out here.)
"I can see your anxiety, little man, and it's ok. It's ok to be where you are and feel what you feel, and...I may not be the hippest mom or say the right thing or be on time, but I will show up, for me, and for you. And hopefully, in doing so, I will model for you what it looks like to live bravely into life, new experiences and all."