Today was my younger daughter’s Nativity play. This is her first year at school and she turned four only the week before term started so she is still little. Only the first two years of the school perform a nativity play and it is considered one of the highlights of the calendar. Not for her. And as a result, not for me. Whilst very gregarious at any other time, when told to “perform”, she freezes. Not just out of shyness (her explanation) but also I think because of the sheer weight of expectation being placed on her little shoulders. Since performances began at nursery – concerts, singalongs, plays – we have been the only parents waving and giving the thumbs up encouraging her to join in, grinning demonically in order to get her to copy but to no avail. We are greeted with a sulky bottom lip, a glare and a frown. Other parents usually think it is funny. Not me. So to avoid this today, I thought I would entice her with the idea of a meal out – a treat to celebrate her saying her one line out loud and joining in with the others. I thought I’d nailed it – she was excited about the two theoretical balls of strawberry ice cream that would materialise for pudding. But no. Sadly, today was no exception. I will add the photos of one silent, sulking angel surrounded by a host of beatific ones to the family album.
At first I felt angry. That this should have happened, again, despite my incentive. I’d failed. And I also felt embarrassed. Why my child when all the others seemed to be in their element on stage, giggling and showing off for their proud parents? But then I realised my reaction was far more about my awkwardness than about her: I was ashamed that my child had stood out for the wrong reasons; I was resentful that my proud parent moment had been snatched. So I channelled my inner empath and put on a “I’m so proud of you” face. After all, parenting is no different to most other walks of life: you fake it until you feel it. She was happy and so was I.
When I got home, I read the latest email sent from Bethany Webster on Welcoming the Divine Child Within You. Serendipidously (of course), the very first paragraph struck a chord: “There is power and nourishment in simply being and resting. This is what healthy bonding looks like between a mom and her child: to be welcomed, to be cherished not for what we do and what we produce, but by fully being who we are, in all our complexity... Often the most powerful need of all is to have your existence seen as good; to be welcomed and honoured as you are.” It resonated so deeply because it revealed that I had just felt the opposite: by being angry at my daughter for not fitting in, I was telling her it was not ok to be who she is. I was offering only conditional love: for what I wanted her to do instead of cherishing her for who she was. I felt very humbled.
This lesson can of course be applied to us all: there are parts to each of us that either we or others feel do not conform. To the current demands of our society, our culture, our upbringing or to our own impossibly high standards. But these parts need to be loved equally along with those that do fit in, not judged and pushed out. If we can accept ourselves and others IN ALL OUR COMPLEXITY we allow ourselves the freedom to flourish. From that, flows the energy and happiness that comes from being truly authentic. That may not create the perfect school nativity cast but it will allow for a magnificent diversity of thriving personalities.
As for my daughter, her next challenge (and therefore mine) will be class assembly, performed in front of the whole school and parents. I have decided that I will let go of any expectations: I will be in the background smiling whether she delivers or not; accepting her for whoever she decides to be on that day. And in the meantime, I’m off to organise those two balls of strawberry ice cream....
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