It hasn’t been the kind of teamwork that often comes to mind—where people are supposed to be working for the team, but there’s still competition because someone wants to be the star or wants to make sure they’re the one who gets the promotion, or someone gets annoyed because he or she doesn’t want to do things the way the team has decided to do them. We worked together on projects that had no bottom line. We often didn’t think in terms of success, we simply tried.
As mother and daughter, we’d done projects together for years and had been having fun with those, but an opportunity came up that seemed to push us across another threshold.
Shortly after I’d decided to leave my marriage, and my kids and I had left the island where they’d grown up, the three of us were being given a tour of the elementary school by the principal and, as we were walking down the hallway there was an announcement over the loudspeakers. I was trying to focus on what the principal was saying because he didn’t think he needed to stop talking, so I only heard parts, “Auditions…school play…after school….” I continued to multi-task wondering if I’d heard it right. Was it Thursday? As the principal pointed out the science room and the library, I reached what I thought was an inevitable conclusion, “It’s Tuesday. There’s no way Jade is going to want to audition when she’s only been here two days.”
Wednesday and Thursday flew by. I was beyond busy getting everything organized in our new home, but, for some reason, I was in the main office on Friday a little before noon and, I don’t know why, but I thought about the announcement again and had to ask the question. The receptionist said, “Yeah, those were done after school yesterday.” I felt my heart sink, because theater had been Jade’s favorite social activity on the island. I knew it had been ridiculous to even ask. Then the receptionist added, “But a couple of kids missed the auditions and the school counselor is going to let them do it this afternoon, so I don’t see why she couldn’t, too.”
Still, it seemed impossible. I hadn’t even talked to Jade about it. I hadn’t brought it up because I was so sure she’d feel horrible about the timing. What was I doing thinking a ten-year-old would have the courage to do something like this? I stood there knowing it was something she loved and this was the last chance. I asked the receptionist if I could go to her classroom and talk to her about it. I took an application form, just in case, and knocked on the classroom door.
I did my best to explain the entire situation as quickly as possible, and told her she didn’t have to, that I just didn’t want her to miss the opportunity if she thought she might want to do it. Jade said yes. And she got a part.
Jade had been put in the regular 6th grade class instead of the Challenge Program since the advanced program didn’t have room until fall. She spent the next three months being bullied or ignored by most of her classmates, but there were a number of kids from the Challenge Program in the play. I was so thankful she was able to make a couple of friends since I knew Middle School would be incredibly difficult if she didn’t know anyone.
She got a lead part and did an incredible job. On the last day of the performances, she got really sick and was in bed until 6:45 (the show started at 7:00). But she got up, as I frantically called the director to let him know he didn’t have to stand in, and she did it.
I think that experience gave her a huge amount of confidence, but the entire experience also seemed to open up her mind to have an awareness that she could reach for things that truly seemed impossible.
I’d also talked to my kids about the new possibilities we were going to be able to explore in the new town and surrounding areas and it seems like we both just started looking for opportunities, being aware and open to anything and everything.
The next fall, Jade met a fellow student who was two courses ahead of her in math and she took took on-line summer courses to catch up. A year later, she found out about a Japanese Exchange program that had 12 spots. She was told by one of the members of the panel that her answer was one of the best he’d every heard. We enjoyed hosting a girl from Japan here, then Jade got to go to Japan. She taught herself to sew and knit. She didn’t knit scarves, she knit curves that blew my mind as she crafted baby-sized felted cats and even a two-foot long pink flamingo. She was eleven, twelve. I was in awe of what she was doing. She just tried. We always talked and threw things out, then said, “Why not try?”
I never dreamed I’d know someone like her.
When I dreamed of having kids, I’d heard so many caveats against being your kid’s best friend. I ignored it, like a lot of advice I’d heard over the years. But that doesn’t mean it’s been easy having the daughters I have. When I hear other parents talk about the struggles their kids are having, I can’t nod in agreement. It feels too awkward to say, “So, my daughter is getting straight A’s, again.” The things I share always sound like I’m bragging, but I think it’s important to share what she and I have done to get her where she is, because I’d love to see every parent have what we have.
In some ways I wish I could keep Jade with me, because we’ve had so much fun, but she’s exploring new territory, beyond anything I could have ever imagined. (As of 2014, she’s a senior at one of the top universities in the country, as well as having been accepted in their co-curricular leadership program.)
Yesterday she shared a link to a site called Inc. Magazine, a page on motivation, 5 Ways to Get and Keep Motivated, which I appreciated because she knows I’m trying to achieve something that often seems impossible—writing a book and getting the followers we’re told we need to have if we’re going to be successful. Then I did what I always do, I explored the site a little more and saw this: 12 Great Motivational Quotes for 2013.
I read down through the comments, because…I don’t know, because a little voice inside said, “Keep going.” Sometime I just follow my feelings and this time they led me to a beautiful expression of encouragement, something I’ve felt, but had never heard expressed quite like this, posted by Melissa Macdonald Pelletier: “It’s impossible,” said pride. “It’s risky,” said experience. “It’s pointless,” said reason. “Give it a try,” whispered the heart. — Anonymous