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Encouraging Heroes. You can be one too.

I don’t know why this story popped into my head yesterday, but I really feel like sharing it so here goes.

Back in high school I took singing lessons and participated in competitions called Solo and Ensemble. You had to prepare a musical piece or two, then go sing them to a judge who would rate you as a 1, a 2, or a 3. If you got a 1 or a 2 in the local competition, you qualified to move on to compete at the state level. There were also nice medals involved, and the judge would give you a critique to help you learn more and improve. It was a tremendously nerve-wracking experience for me; I was extremely self-conscious at that age.

I think it was my sophomore or junior year in high school when I went to a competition at the local level. Several students from the school were participating, so we all rode together. Parents were invited, and my mom came along to support me.

There was a guy Steve in our group with whom I’d been acquainted most of my life; I remember him teasing me in church when I was little. We rarely spoke to one another as he was pretty popular and accomplished. Me? See above point about self-consciousness. Steve was a large guy, full of exuberance and fun. His personality filled whatever room he entered and he usually had everyone laughing along very quickly.

As it turned out, Steve had to sing in front of the same judge as I did that day. We were in a small classroom with ten or twelve other people watching. Steve did horribly. He completely bombed his songs, couldn’t even remember the words. And the judge scored him a 2. This actually boosted my confidence. If he could do so poorly and get a 2, surely I could get a 2 or even a 1. I sang a little while later, hitting all my notes and remembering all my lines.

That same judge gave me a 3.

It was devastating. And public. Everyone there knew what had happened, and there was nothing I could do to protest. I think my choir teacher may have said something to the judge and asked for a new opinion, but I really don’t remember very well. Either way, the decision stood.

What I do remember with complete clarity is my mom saying to me in a low voice as I fought back tears:

“I’m so proud of you right now.”

That? That made all the difference in the world to me. Even though I was humiliated and hurting, to know that Mom was proud of my reaction really helped. And it gave me the strength to continue through the day with some dignity.

Do you tell your kids when they make you proud? They may not act like your approval and pride matters to them.

Betcha it does.

Go ahead. Let them know when you’re proud of their actions or decisions or character.

I don’t know if my mom realizes the impact her words made that day. I think perhaps it’s time for me to tell her.

Earnest Parenting: help for proud parents.