Dear GG, some time ago you had to prepare for a big event at school. To coincide with the anniversary of Martin Luther King’s momentous speech, the entire school would deliver individual speeches to their peers, on a subject of their own choice. You would be judged by your class, and a winner selected to go through to the school final.
You prepared for this speech day after day after day. You really took on the challenge, researching your chosen theme – the marshmallow – and writing up your notes. You put together 2 minutes of facts and opinion, some facts we never knew, some descriptives that made us want to lick marshmallows, and some humour for interest.
You’re not given to hard work where there is a clever alternative, so I was impressed by the effort you made for this speech. You knew it was good, funny, engaging, and you were fired by the desire to do your best. I was proud of you. You worked on intonation, drama, facial expression, and practiced how you might get your audience on board.
The day came, and you took your carefully prepared props – Don’t touch the marshmallows! No, not even one! Not until I’ve done my speech! – and your costume, and we walked to school. It doesn’t matter if I don’t win, I know I’ve got a really funny speech that people will like, and I know I can deliver it well. It’ll be fun. Still, I held my breath until the end of the day. I knew when I saw your face at the door. You didn’t win.
It’s life, and though we, as adults, know that you can’t always win – it’s the taking part, the recognition, the fun of the event that matters – you my children have still to learn how to cope with the emotions that come from not always being the best. It wasn’t your day, someone else was more popular in the moment that mattered, your turn will come…
But it’s so hard to look at your face – brave all day long in front of your classmates – crumple in disappointment once you’re home. It’s hard to know that whatever lessons you’re learning now, there are more to come, fiercer, harder, tougher lessons than this one. I have learned them, and yet still I find myself knocked sideways occasionally by something I thought I could take in my stride. You get back up, of course, you put a brave face on things when it matters, and you cry when you get home.
My gorgeous children, your happiness is what matters most in the world to me. I’m so proud that you hold it together when you have to; I’m so honoured that you pour it all out to me when you get home; I’m so grateful that I seem able to say things that help you to cope with how you feel.
One day this will no longer be the case. One day you’ll need a shoulder and I won’t be there, or I will no longer be the person in whom you want to confide. Then is when you need friends. Take care of your friends, and check that they are taking care of you. Make sure you really know who you can trust, because when you need them, they are always there for you.
I needed friends this week. I felt low, irrationally, over something quite small in the scheme of things. I felt ridiculous for caring so much. I felt bad having a whine – whining is not my style, and others have so much more on their plates than me. But I told some friends. They did not judge, they understood, they sympathised, they boosted my confidence, and they gave me the motivation to dust myself off and start again.
You took a few days lovely girl, to get back to your usual self, but you bounced back, minus a tiny chunk of innocence, but bigger and better for the addition of a life lesson. You know what you have is amazing, you know where it could be improved, and you know that you are you, the sum total of all life’s lessons, and beautiful for all that makes you different from the others. Not better, just different, in a good way.
And if I have helped in any way to build that confidence you have, even when you didn’t win, I am doing a good job. Any friend who makes you feel less than you are, isn’t really a friend. And any person who accepts you for who you are, and loves you anyway, is one you should hold onto.
PS – I think you should have won – I wonder what anyone else thinks… 😉