Let me shoot straight with you – I thought that we would only stay for about 15 minutes – if even that long.
So, an hour and 15 minutes later…I was the one who was ready to call it an afternoon.
And as his participation in the group “Let It Go” sing-along came to a close, and the group of girls turned to him to shout their good-byes with enthusiastic waves, all I could think to myself was…
…oh, goodness, the next few years are going to be interesting.
Me? I never had the opportunity to attend a dance in middle school, so this was an experience for the both of us!
I got the email asking for volunteers. That’s how I found out about it. Because best you believe, he didn’t tell me. I signed up to buy some drinks for the event and made a note on my never-ending list to speak with him about going.
Me: Bubba, there’s a dance on Friday after school. Do you want to go?
A dark cloud filled the room as I felt his anxiety bluster about the unknown.
Him: Ah, you know, I think that it will be too much.
Me: How do you know unless you go? Have you ever been to a dance?
I asked full well knowing that he’s never been to a school dance, but sometimes, asking ALL the questions – even ones I already know the answer to – helps us get to the root of the issue. It’s about honoring the communication process, even if it’s verbose or redundant.
Him: No, but I don’t think I would like it.
Me: How do you know?
His voice takes on a whining quality, like an animal being wounded.
For the record, I really hate that voice…
Him: I just know. I don’t think I want to go.
Key word in his response…think. He hadn’t made a final decision. And I’ve had enough conversations with him during anxious moments to know when he’s facing a dilemma: the choice of wanting to, but being scared to.
It was time for the Mom-Push.
Me: You know there’s going to be snacks, right? And, music – which you like. Does part of you want to go and check it out, but the other part of you feel nervous because you’ve never done it before?
Him: (softly) Yes.
Me: So, you should go.
Him: (caged animal response) No…I don’t want to.
Me: (softly) Bubba, I think that if the only reason you don’t want to go is because you’re nervous and worried about it, and you choose not to go…the next time, the feelings of being nervous are still going to be there. In fact, they’re probably just going to get bigger and more scary. And this event, which is supposed to be fun, is going to turn into a big, ugly, scary thing – but only because you think so, and you’ve never seen it for yourself.
I let that sink in while I brushed the hair off his forehead.
And…enter the Mom-Push…
Me: Here’s my idea – why don’t we go together? We’ll just check it out and see what it’s all about. If you’re not feeling it or it’s super boring, we can leave, because I’ll already be there. At any moment you decide. We’ll stop at the cafe and get a snack before going home. But, if you like it, we can stay for a while, and you can hang out with your friends.
The way I try to mother is by being available, being present and engaged. Giving this kid my time and the flexibility he needs to test the waters, so that he can call it or dive in.
It requires a lot of patience. Frankly, it’s exhausting.
(I am sure that all the Mommas can relate; all parents for that matter…)
But I get to see so many beautiful moments —
Like his dramatic arm flourishes during the song “Let It Go,” which apparently was much appreciated by the ladies.
Like the conversation he had with one girl in particular, who must have been “one of his people,” because he let her take a jelly bean off his plate and pop it into her mouth. Without so much as batting an eye.
Clearly, I’ve made a note to find out more about her…I can’t let him think it’s okay to let just ANYBODY take his jelly beans.
Like the high five he shared with one of the guys, who projected a cool-kid kind of vibe.
Like the way he looked at me and said, “I want to go outside for a few minutes, but I don’t want to leave,” as he reached out to touch my arm for emphasis.
He was having a good time. He was with his people. He needed a breather, but didn’t want to bail on the party.
I was hot and tired. My own senses were overwhelmed with the frivolity of it all (because, if you’ve never witnessed a group of middle school students going crazy over, “What Does the Fox Say?” – I mean, really what else can I say but #EruptionsHappen)…but I was committed to making sure he had this moment.
Because it was an important building block.
He’s growing up. Learning new things. Figuring out how to make connections with his peers. Stuffing his face and singing along.
And I’m right there with him, getting to see it unfold and supporting him through the process with a well-timed Mom-Push, as needed.