Last week, I was asked by my son’s teacher to speak to all the 2nd grade classes about what I do to help the community. Part of my job is community education and training. I’ve dedicated 23 years to anti-violence efforts. I am somewhat well rehearsed in the safety/active bystander talk, so why did the butterflies begin to form in my stomach as I read the invitation?
My son, a soon-to-be 8-year-old, is more than impressed with me behind closed doors. Yet, the public persona of who he needs to be at school is starting to take shape, much to my dismay. “I Love You” has become a not-so-public symbol and a secret hand tap.
“Well, what would YOU say about being a community helper?”
Clearly, I am not as cool as a firefighter.
“You’re just a social worker!”
We sat down and talked about if he wanted me to do it. His list of questions was definitely longer than it would have been a mere year ago. Gone are the days of universal joy whenever he glimpses my face.
It’s okay. There are times when a little more separation between my son and I is healthy and desired (he takes ‘attached at the hip’ to a whole new level). But, I never expected this knot of performance anxiety trying to get ready for a ten minute speech in front my son and his classmates.
Impressing friends and classmates is one of the areas I admit to feeling most helpless with my children. School, those magical doors where our best efforts are reduced to about a percentage point of what they need to feel safe, that they belong, and that they are worthy. Truthfully, the developmental need to find value through friendship above all else is a milestone I fully expect closing my eyes and praying for the best through. In just 2nd grade, who he likes or doesn’t becomes fodder for public taunt. “Why do people make fun of someone just because they like someone else?” My heart sinks in the middle of Despicable Me 2 because I know that he’s talking about himself. He has the nerve to be a second grader with a female for a friend. That takes courage.
Which, naturally, is only a smidge of why I want to go talk to his class so badly.
“Can you bring the Real Strength water bottles?” Yes, of course. “Do you have enough for everyone?” Yes, I do.
Volunteering for my daughter’s Thanksgiving luncheon was not this complicated.
“What about the dog tags, do you have enough dog tags?” Yes, would you like me to bring those?
Okay, you can come.” Swag wins every time. I can tell he’s still nervous.
Oh boy. So am I.
Sorry folks, time to go. I have to prepare the speech of a lifetime for my 2nd grader. Jeesh!
“You may never get rid of the butterflies. But you can teach them how to fly in formation.”