Monday, August 10, 2009

Teach Your Children Well

When I was in the 8th grade, I chose the language I would study in High School. There was only a single criterion considered: speaking in public. Because I did not want to speak my native language in front of a room full of people, much less a foreign language in a room full of people, I chose Latin. Seriously? Who knows how Latin sounded back in the day? And we're not going to the Vatican. Case closed. I studied Latin. I tutor Latin. I have taught Latin. Our Young Son is a Latin scholar. Scholar sounds better than student.

Fast forward to college, where I found that to do what I wanted to do in my sorority, I would have to talk in front of women to be an officer, I stepped up, opened my mouth and spoke. A LOT. TOO MUCH. Then I became a teacher. Speaking to children, even teenagers, wasn't a big deal. Then I became an actual public speaker, by virtue of the fact that I had no choice if I wanted to stand in front of an unruly wedding party at a rehearsal, or speak at a large national convention of childbirth educators. Let's just say I have become comfortable with speaking to a group of people, even a large group of people. Even unprepared.

Our Young Son was asked to speak for his Mission Team at the Mission Supporters' Dinner, an annual affair, at church. He has poise, he is calm, he can run a whole wedding reception single-handedly, so I wasn't so ruffled by that. Then I totally forgot. I guess you could call it denial. I should have realized why he got his hair cut a whole WEEK before school starts. The night before we talked about a couple of things, and I tossed off some casual advice that I had actually heard from a TV show (Madmen, in case you wonder how I waste hot summer afternoons): Pick one person and make eye contact. Don't say anything that doesn't support the point you are making. Tell your story, don't make a speech.

Imagine my surprise when I walked into the huge fellowship Hall full of several hundred people, I got a knot in my stomach. A GIANT-SIZE knot. What's up with that? Our Young Son was speaking, not me. To hundreds of people, from a podium, with a microphone.
I discovered a truism of my life as a mother: I would rather speak to 100,000 people, unprepared, than be in the room when one of my children is speaking.

I had a hint of it when Pretty Pretty Princess gave her Senior Speech, but her school is such a tight, close-knit community, that while I was on edge, I wasn't flat-out uncomfortable. The ginormous Fellowship Hall at church, with hundreds of parents, grandparents, siblings, friends, MINISTERS....that spooked me. For him. I didn't want to sit at a table - we were late, so that was hypothetical, there were no table seats to be had. I couldn't eat dinner - but I don't like white meat of the chicken, so that was covered.

I was undeniably nervous for him. Sweating-type nervous. Note that he, himself, our Young Son was self-proclaimed: NOT nervous. He didn't speak first, so as soon as the people started telling their stories, I started feeling ....scared? Nervous? Something unable to be named?
I texted him -

Me: "Be sure to say your name, stand up straight and hold your head up."

Young Son: "I'm going to go up there and mumble, look at my feet and chew gum."
As he approached the podium, La Petite Jockette came to attention, apron and all. She didn't appear to be too concerned. She had been in the back scraping dishes, so I guess that's some perspective.
Our Young Son has grown this summer. He's tall and lanky, and self-assured. From where I sat, he did not look tall and lanky, he looked small in a BIG ROOM. Sorry. He stood, said his name and gave a taut, well reasoned talk, with a solid balance of fact and personal stories. People laughed at his stories. Three times. If you have ever spoken to more than 5 people, you know that the laughter is what makes you able to keep talking. Silence is deadly. The room wasn't silent.
When it was over, he came to the back, and before he sat down with Jockette and relaxed a bit, he pulled from his pocket his little piece of notebook paper with bullet points, which as it appears, is a solid 5 paragraph essary:
  • Intro - Name, grade school

  • Baltimore: what we did - park, movie, zoo, DC

  • Why I went - had fun last year; wanted to be a leader, Uneasy about being on daycamp

  • Differences - no visual goal/progress; harder work for me

  • What I learned . . .

He told funny stories about how running a daycamp for 4th graders was more difficult than the manual labor of building a house with Habitat for Humanity, he talked about how he struggled because he couldn't see solid, measurable progress at the end of the day, he revealed that he napped daily. Our Young Son talked for about 7 minutes, from a folded, handwritten set of bullet points

  • What I learned...

As it turns out, what our Young Son learned, and what I learned as he spoke, are the same - and this I can quote verbatim:
"I learned that God will use me how He wants, not how I want.

"I learned that God has a plan, even when I don't see it."

"I learned that God will always choose the right path."

Man, I hope we both remember that.Still a church supper.

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