It was Children’s Day at church and my kids were supposed to stand up and speak in front of everyone, something they had never done before.
I was absolutely terrified. I have stood down angry, threatening patients on multiple occasions. That fear is nothing like this fear.
These were my kids. How well they do is a reflection on me, right? I made it my mission to make sure they would not let me down…
We practiced like crazy.
They knew their speeches/verses backwards and forwards. We drilled and recited over and over again until they were absolutely sick of it and sick of me. We only had a weeks notice so you can imagine how much work went into those seven days.
I had dreams of a flawless performance. I would stand at the back of the auditorium and receive the accolades of the admiring masses as the service let out. Yes, yes those are my children. Yes, they are very smart, aren’t they?….
This would be my shining moment of motherhood!
But when they stood up at their turns, they froze.
Perhaps I was too wrapped up in my own anxiety over this to recognize their own nerves? Maybe I enhanced their stage fright by my obsessive drilling? Maybe it was just bound to happen no matter what?
My son, wide eyed, lifted his shirt and grabbed his crotch, zipping his fly up and down, up and down. My daughter at her turn just stared. And stared. And stared.
Awkward silence reigned until the children’s minister stood up and helped prompt them through it, each in turn.
I just wanted to melt into my seat.
Tons of kind people came up after to tell them what a great job they did, how it took tremendous courage just to mount the steps to the dais. And they were right. I should have been proud. This was not failure, not for them and certainly not for me. I felt shamed as I pondered all of this on the drive home.
As a physician I am constantly plagued by the sense that everyone is judging me on a different level than they might judge someone else. It doesn’t matter if they really do. It is what my mind tells me that matters in this case. Sometimes I can see past that and focus on my kids instead of putting on a show, but I will be honest with you, it is a struggle. Speaking at church was not about me, it should not have been about me, but I made it about me anyway.
That is what motherhood is about. Practice. Just like medicine. You try your darnedest to get it right, apologize when you don’t, and then work hard to do better the next time.
So to my kids, I love you both. Please forgive me when I am not perfect. I will love you always, flaws and all.