I'm Lindsay Ferrier, a Nashville writer with a passion for family travel, exploring Tennessee, and raising kids without losing my mind in the process. This is where I share my discoveries, along with occasional deep thoughts, pop culture tangents and a sprinkling of snark. Want to get in touch? Use the CONTACT form at the top of the page.
March 11, 2013
Last Tuesday night was my eight-year-old’s annual school music performance.
The first year she performed as a kindergartner, I videotaped the whole thing and took about a hundred photos, because OH MY GAW MY BABY WAS ON A STAGE. Since that time, though, I have to confess that the novelty has worn off, and subsequent performances have all blended together into a mishmash of repetitive verses and hand motions and matching t-shirts.
Still, last week’s performance was a third grade rite of passage for my daughter and so I dutifully showed up with a smile on my face and digital camera and video recorder in my hands. As the curtains parted, I scanned the risers for my daughter, quickly locating her in her customary short-kid-front-row position. But this time, something was different.
Something was definitely different.
Typically, my daughter would be standing quietly like the other children around her, waiting for her cue to sing. But on this night, she had morphed into — Well, I don’t know quite how to describe it.
Apparently, the Drama Bug had bitten my daughter.
Punky began by smiling proudly at the audience and puffing out her chest. I suppose she received some sort of positive feedback from the faces in the crowd, because from that point on, things only got weirder. As the music teacher welcomed the parents and launched into a long explanation of the songs we’d be hearing, Punky broadly pantomimed a range of characters behind him. She was a senator in the midst of a filibuster! She was a fashion model posing at the end of a runway! She was a tuba player in a marching band! She was a bear surrounded by hornets in the forest! I stared at my daughter, perplexed. Meanwhile, the parents, glad for a distraction, were eating it up.
What was interesting to me about her impromptu performance was that my daughter is not an extrovert. She’s typically quite shy in front of strangers. Lately, though, put her on a stage and her inner Liza Minnelli is unleashed. When the singing began, she performed with gusto and I did my best to capture the tour de force on video, regretting that I didn’t have a seat closer to the action. Afterward as we drove home, I commented on her performance.
“You were really on tonight, Punky,” I said. “What got into you?”
“I was just having fun, I guess,” she said.
“I love that you’re not nervous or scared in front of people,” I said.
“Why would I be nervous?” she asked.
“Well, a lot of people are,” I said. “Most adults get nervous up on a stage in front of people. There are even clubs and classes where grown ups practice speaking in front of each other, just to try to overcome their fears. If you can perform in front of a bunch of people and not be afraid, then you’ve got an amazing talent that will really help you in life. ”
Punky smiled and sat back in her seat.I could tell she was pleased to have discovered a new talent- something that not everyone else could do.
A few days later, I sat before my computer, waiting to be Skyped in for a live interview on HLN’s “Raising America.” Because of my job, I’ve had many opportunities to overcome any fear I have of speaking in front of people. I’ve been on national television over the last year more times than I can count, talking about everything from the presidential election to the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue. But I still get really nervous right before I go on the air. My stomach knots up. My mouth feels dry. I worry that I’ll stutter, or say something dumb or inaccurate.
On that particular morning, though, I thought of my daughter standing on stage in front of a room full of adults. Playing air tuba. Marching in place with a laughingly stern expression. Miming a grand oration. Beaming at the crowd. “Why would I be nervous?” I heard her say in my mind.
If my eight-year-old could do it, I thought, so could I. I grinned at the memory, took a deep breath, and felt my nerves ebb away. I went on the air that day without any of my usual butterflies. I felt confident and competent and ready to bring it- and if anything went wrong, there was always my air tuba.
As parents, we’re consumed with teaching our children all they need to know about life before they grow up. So often, though, I find I’m learning just as much from them.