The tween and teen years are such an awkward time for some kids. Well, for most kids, if we are being realistic. When my son found out earlier this year that chorus is mandatory for all students, he all but had a panic attack.
“But Mom, you KNOW that singing is just not my thing.”
Before I even had a chance to reach out and warn her, the music teacher emailed to say that she heard my son was apprehensive and would not give him a solo (or do anything that made him uncomfortable), as she wanted this to be a pleasurable experience for all the kids.
Recently I attended said school chorus concert performed by both fifth and sixth graders. Any observer could clearly pick out the music and theatre enthusiasts who moved their mouths in unison as they sang the songs with pride. Also obvious were what a friend aptly named the Ventriloquists, the kids who obviously did not want to be there at all, but were mouthing the words to appease teachers and parents alike. Some Ventriloquists had their arms crossed and stared straight ahead as they counted down the melodies until they could escape from the stage. Others tried not to end up in a fit of giggles, especially those who were standing next to a friend. That’s the camp my own son was in during the concert, and luckily, he managed to keep it together.
One girl stood out to me like a sore thumb. I could not take my eyes off her. (She was on stage when my son’s grade was off stage, so I wasn’t staring at her while ignoring my own kid. I promise.) Besides, she was placed front and center. I’m not quite certain how many others in the audience noticed how severely anxious and uneasy this poor girl looked while her classmates sang together. There were probably a few. She stood in the middle of the pack, ringing her hands together while staring at the floor, occasionally moving her mouth and sneaking a glance out at the crowd for a brief moment.
This girl looked so sad. She made my heart hurt.
I hoped that somehow, by continuing to watch her, that she could feel me rooting her on. Maybe she could sense that someone out there (besides her parents) was proud of her for getting through what was an obviously uncomfortable evening. I wondered whether she behaved the same way during rehearsals, or if she was more at ease when there was no audience watching. Surely the music teacher would not have put her in the center of the front row if she appeared that uncomfortable during rehearsals. Would she?? This was, after all, the same kind woman who reached out to me months earlier when my son came home in a panic.
Watching that girl brought me back to the times in my younger life (and there were quite a few) when I did not want to be front and center. Times when I didn’t feel confident enough in myself to perform in chorus, give a speech in class, or later on, even to present to an important client. When I cared more about what others would think of me then throwing caution to the wind and just going for it. Times that affected me well into adulthood.
Fortunately, it is true what they say about getting older, in that our confidence grows. We tend to stop caring quite as much about what others think of us, and focus more on what we think of ourselves. It is a blessing we are given too late in life. Too few of us, especially females, are innately inclined with that kind of confidence. What a shame it is that we can’t all find a way to give this gift to our children, especially during their awkward tween years. Yet self-esteem is something that comes from within, and oftentimes the best we can do is support one another.
So to that girl in the chorus, and all the other girls like her, please remember this. You are never alone, even when you may feel that way. Someone out there is rooting for you, even if you don’t see her in the audience. That someone knows how you feel. She has been there too. She wants you to know that it is way more fun to throw caution to the wind than to stare at the ground wishing for moments to be over. She hopes you will learn this lesson earlier than she did. What matters most in life (just like at a chorus concert) is not what others think of your performance, but what you think of yourself.
You are beautiful. So just enjoy the melodies and sing.