I was a terribly shy kid in grade school. Public speaking was especially terrifying for the 12-year-old version of me. So of course I was mortified when I was asked, with three other kids, to make a few remarks alongside the vice principal for an upcoming assembly. I don't recall what I said or what the event was about, but I do remember feeling strangely calm while on stage in front of the whole school. It occurred to me that, having survived numerous previous experiences talking in front of audiences, my freakouts had abated over time and I was actually comfortable now with all eyes on me. In other words, I was still scared, but multiple exposures had taken the sting out of that fear to the point where I could settle in without my heart pounding and my hands sweating.
I think part of growing up is overcoming your fears. But part of growing up is learning how to manage your fears; they don't go away, but they don't keep you from doing what you need to do. To this day, after countless speaking engagements, I still get nervous. But I'm able to perform through the nerves. I haven't become fearless; I've just figured out how to cope and even to thrive.
I wonder if Jada will remember soccer camp registration just like I remembered my middle-school assembly. Big crowds of people where she knows no one is a very anxiety-producing setting, and every camp registration is exactly that. The whole time we were line she got really quiet and really emotional. To make matters worse, no one at registration seemed particularly welcoming; there was a lot of barking, a lot of chaos, and a lot of hand-waving, but not a lot of warmth or openness. I got really protective and put my arm around her as she buried her head deep into my side.
Finally we made it through the gauntlet of line and check-ins, and I helped bring her belongings to the doorstep of her cabin. I asked her if she wanted me to stay or go and she said stay. So I told her to take her time getting unpacked, and that I would be waiting in the car nearby so that I could take her to the first activity, which was to get swim-tested at the lake. I waited in the car in the sweltering heat and said a few words of prayer that God would buoy up my teary little girl so she could have a good week of camp.
If I didn't look up at the right time I would've missed Jada altogether, for she had bounded out of her cabin and was practically halfway to the lake before I could flag her down. I asked her if she still needed me to go with her and she said no. And with that, I was back in the car heading home, feeling that my Jada had stuck it out through a fearsome setting and had found she could get herself to a place of comfort.
On the car ride up, I had praised her for choosing to sign up for soccer camp. While there are a few newbies like her, there are many kids who are quite good at the game. For her to thrust herself into a place where she knows no one and isn't at all good at the very thing that the place is about is a brave act indeed, and I let her know it. Who knew on the car ride up that she would soon after exhibit a momentous act of bravery in getting through an environment that was frightening for her and getting on with her week. Good for my girl.