There's something that's been brewing for a few weeks now. In it, I could sniff the potential for my kids' disappointment - the Christmas program at school. Auditions. Scripts. Acceptance. Rejection. Like with most things academic, this is not chancy for Simon. He would almost certainly get a part he auditioned for and bask in his success. For Sweet T, though, the forecast read different. Old enough to audition, but too young to read the script. Old enough to know she wanted what her big brother wants, but too young to understand her capacity. I could see it coming, and I began praying for her heart, and for my mother's shepherding of it. On the surface, there were two options: prepare her for success or prepare her for disappointment. Of course, both of those options are completely wrong. One risks building her up for a bigger fall, and one risks leading her to believe I think she isn't good enough. In speaking to a good friend about our daughters' various disappointments this school year, we chatted about how, of course we would love to protect them from Hard Things, but how so much more, we want them to know Jesus is with them in and bigger than those Hard Things.
Today, my mother's intuition was semi-confirmed by a reliable source that there will be disappointment, and probably tears regarding the Christmas program. I am thankful to know before she sees the list posted without her name on it.
I've spent the following couple of hours reflecting on two of my similar experiences as a child. First, was fourth grade. I was new at a small school and there were 4 girls in my class. Suzanne, Amy, Cara, and I were all each other had. I was immediately accepted by them because they didn't have a choice. The Christmas program was Psalty's Christmas (Christmas is a time, Christmas is a time, Christmas is a time to looo-ooove.) The auditions were for the ensemble (definition: girls who can sing). Suzanne, Amy and Cara all had (and probably still have) beautiful voices. One might think all 9 year old girls can passably sing, but not true. In fact, I didn't know I had a bad voice until I heard myself during the try-out and realized how different I sounded from the other girls. But, still, would they really cut one girl?!?!?! Yes, they would. And there I was, the only girl I knew that would be still standing on the risers when the stars took the microphone.
Of course, my Dad had the power to change all of this. And he did, in a very appropriate way. He didn't demand that I get a solo, but after he talked to the teachers, I ended up in the "sign language choir" (translation: girls who suck at singing but can be taught to move their hands correctly) with the third graders. Honestly, this did help. And, as a parent and teacher myself, I think it was the best course of action. But, it didn't take away the disappointment. The circumstances changed, and I felt seen and loved and supported by my dad, but I still felt the not-enough-ness that comes when your name's not on the list.
Next came fifth grade and what might turn out to be my worst day ever in my whole life. In one day, I lost the Spelling Bee (pacific. one eff, two effs, whatever, English is a dumb language) and found out I hadn't gotten a role in Pollyanna. I was crushed. It is still a memory that brings tears to my eyes.
Of course, my Dad had the power to change all of this (not in any way that wouldn't end up in a lawsuit), but he didn't.
Instead, when I came home and ran up to my bed after school, I found a heart-shaped box of candy and a letter scrawled on a card in a pink envelope (must have been Valentine's season). And, in the midst of my disappointment, words of love, affirmation and encouragement formed what would turn out to be the most significant memory of my childhood.
That's what I want for my kids. I want them to know they are loved through every disappointment, that they are enough, that they are great. Sometimes there will be a solution that can help. But, sometimes, there will only be the words I Love You.