Sunday, January 17, 2010

Letting It Go

I spend a lot of time and energy working with Sunday School kids on drama and music. The creative arts are my passion and I love to experience the way children’s minds are so much more free than adult minds. Most of the kids really respond to drama, too. Even the one or two who are getting to the point where they’re “too cool” to sing in front of the congregation warm right up to the opportunity for some good comedic lines and the spotlight.

As a result of my efforts with the kids, I’d like to think they are each getting a deeper understanding of God’s word by experiencing it in multiple ways. As another result of my efforts, people compliment me a heck of a lot. I’m much better at accepting praise gracefully now, with the help of my twelve-step program and my honest work toward more humility. But my lifelong MO is to absolutely thrive on the praise of others. In fact, growing up all of my self-esteem came from what other people thought of me. So when someone pulls me aside to tell me how amazing it was to see the kids do thus-and-so and did I write that skit???, I have to be very deliberate about being gracious and giving the credit to the kids for their engagement in the process.

Then there is the matter of Gavin. I remind myself with some frequency, whenever my head starts to swell, that for all my passion for the arts, for all my ability to get kids to act and sing and really dig into the Gospel, the only child who absolutely will not participate in anything I do is my own son.

It’s not his fault. Whatever his emotional-behavioral challenge might be labeled eventually, the bottom line is that he will not participate in group activities, especially if they involve any kind of audience. He did manage to do his Kindergarten, 1st and 2nd Grade Performances at school, but every year was a crapshoot and we were always surprised when he did it. Third Grade? No dice. Even though he seemed to want to participate, even though I bribed him shamelessly, reports kept coming from school that as soon as he would get to music class to start rehearsing for the play, his behavior would quickly go downhill. As the performance loomed closer, he started getting agitated at just the mention of music class and the play. At home, he still told me he wanted to do the performance but the facts coming from school didn’t support this. In the end, his special ed team strongly recommended that, for his own sense of serenity, he shouldn’t participate.

This was hard for me. Gavin has a beautiful voice. He is engaging and funny. He memorizes lines effortlessly. He. Will. Not. Perform. My primadonna diva proud stage-mother ego was being poked with a hot skewer.

I asked Gavin directly: if the bribe were not hanging out there, would he really want to do the performance? He said no.

I had to concede. Whatever it is that sets Gavin off about public performance is real. And it would be mean to force him to do something that was so terribly unnerving for him. Even if it was something he was good at. Even if it was something I loved.

After letting it go at school, I was able to start letting it go at church, too. I can’t force him to participate in Sunday School, sing songs with the other kids, or stand up in the sanctuary and act out a skit or a Bible story. I don’t want him to hate church. Or singing. Or me. And I realized that if I was honest with myself, the main reason I was pushing was pride and ego, not love and service to my little boy with the big heart.

I am grateful for this. Today, another mom was near tears at the way her children did not want to participate in the worship service. I just hugged her and told her I understood, and that the purpose of the experience wasn’t to impress the other grown-ups, but to dig in to the story. They had already done that. They didn’t need to prove it to anyone. I gave her daughter a hug and said, “I love you, Hon, even if you don’t want to sing.”

It was a good reminder, too, that my job isn’t to impress the congregation with the talents of its children (or the talents of its drama director). My job is to facilitate the children in sharing the story with those around them. That has nothing to do with me. Thanks, Gavin. :)

1 comment:

  1. Ah - perhaps Gavin is one gift of your HP to help you learn to rely on Him and yourself, instead of the praise of others? Sounds like you are already headed that way... :)