Normally when you think of tears and graduation, you assume the tears are caused by the fact that graduation signifies the end of one thing and the beginning of another. What you don’t always assume is that the tears signify an intense fear of performing in front of a crowd of people.
This was the case with Mason last week as her preschool class celebrated their graduation. Honestly, I’ve had a hard time starting this post. I’ve been unsure about how to portray my feelings during the graduation. To tell you the truth, my first response was embarrassment. My second response was anger. And my final response was understanding and sympathy. It just took a bit to get there. Let me explain each feeling.
When I first walked up to school, the whole class was outside getting their picture taken. I noticed Mason was off to the side with her teacher, but I just thought she was getting her cap readjusted. As soon as she saw me, she started walking towards me and crying. I went over and immediately tried to calm her down and get her back in line with her class. No such luck. The other kids were staring at her and other parents had started congregating and noticing Mason. I eventually got her calmed down enough to get the picture above, but then Jeremy showed up, which elicited more crying. At this point, the kids were lined up and parents were being ushered into the auditorium. Mason would not let go of our hands. We finally just had to leave to get inside. She ended up holding hands with one of her teachers while crying during the processional. Other parents were videotaping, taking countless pictures, and her my daughter was bawling her eyes out for all to see and hear. I was embarrassed. I felt she was ruining everyone else’s special moment.
This is what caused my emotions to turn to anger. Why couldn’t she suck it up and deal like all the other kids? Why was she still crying even though all the other kids were smiling and happy? Hadn’t she been looking forward to this all week? She had been telling me everyday that she couldn’t wait for graduation. She had excitedly told me about their “practice” the day before. What had happened? The anger didn’t last too long because I went back to being embarrassed when Jeremy had to go up on stage and pull her off to get her to stop crying so that everyone could hear the teacher’s speech.
Mason sat in Jeremy’s lap the rest of the graduation. Despite having practiced all week at home the songs they were singing, she did not want to be up on stage singing with her friends. For those of you who know Mason, you know she rarely gives up the opportunity to sing. This is when my emotions turned to sympathy and understanding. My daughter was scared to death of performing in front of all these strangers. No matter that she could sing the songs by herself at home in front of Cooper and I (and even her friend, Luka), she could not do it in front of these strangers. She was scared, and I felt so bad for her.
When diplomas were handed out, she couldn’t even go up there to accept it alone. Jeremy had to take her up, and she still cried her eyes out the second she started walking up the steps to the stage.
She finally calmed down when it was all over. She was relieved, I’m sure. We got a few pictures of her with little glimmers of a smile, but I could still feel her pain. All the kids kept asking her what was wrong, and she wouldn’t talk. Parents kept giving me sympathetic glances, and I felt I had to laugh it off and act like it didn’t matter. But it did. It mattered that my daughter, who is otherwise fearless when it comes to roller coasters, turbulence on airplanes and any other thrill seeking experience, is completely scared of performing in public.
We got back to her classroom for cake and punch, and I could just feel the tension melting away. She had survived. Heck, I had survived. And I came out learning so much more about my own daughter. I’ve known she’s been shy at certain times. It’s hard to ignore. (Case in point – her dance recital) This was definite proof that we made the right decision to keep her in preschool another year. Hopefully she’ll build enough confidence that at next year’s graduation (the real one), she’ll be able to stand up on stage with her friends. It’s not to say that she’ll be over this stage fright in one year, but we hope that we can find ways to help her deal with the fear.
And me? Will I be able to keep from being embarrassed and angry if she does do this again? I think so. I realized I have probably invoked the same embarrassment and anger in my mom and Jeremy… I am seriously afraid of flying – more specifically of taking off and hitting turbulence that is unpredicted. My mom and Jeremy have both witnessed my white knuckles on the arm rests and my babbling of “We’re going to crash” and my yelps of fear when the plane dips in an air pocket. Who wouldn’t be embarrassed to be associated to someone so inconsolable? Who wouldn’t be angry after all their attempts to calm me down have failed?
I have to take Mason’s fear in stride. She will persevere. I know she has it in her. I have learned that my daughter is not as fearless as she seems at home. She is nervous in front of those she does not know. No matter how loud she belts out songs at home with her family as her audience, she is not comfortable doing it in front of strangers. Maybe she just doesn’t want to upstage everyone with her talent? That must be it, right? In all serious, though, I love her no matter what. We will be there to sympathize with her and understand her fears as she continues to grow and mature and learn. And at that high school graduation in 2025? I think her tears will be more for the expected reasons. And my tears will be due to sheer pride.