Friday, June 5, 2015

Who You are When no one's Looking


The girls' school offers an award every nine weeks. The Coyote Character Award is presented to one student from each class who exhibits outstanding character and leadership.

Ainsley has watched a few friends receive the award and though she celebrated with them, she very much wanted the award for herself. In explaining her longing she said to me, "Wouldn't you just be so proud of me?" I told her I was always proud of her and an award wouldn't make me any more so. "Yea, but wouldn't you be just extra proud of me then?" I told her it would be impossible for me to be any more proud, I love her for who she is and that's what makes me proud. She heard me but she didn't stop longing for that extra public affirmation. I mean like she sort of started an all out campaign for it. She asked me if I would ask her teacher for ideas on how she might reach her goal. Her teacher was gracious enough to tell me that she's always looking for leaders who do what they're supposed to do before being asked and helping others to clean up or helping them with their work. She also kindly told me that she had lots of wonderful students and basically, don't count on your kid getting it, gift giving Room Rep or not.

Truth is, the girl does have plenty of character and is a character:) I wanted so much for her to be awarded not so much because she is the most character-laden Kindergartner in the school, but because she wanted it. She wanted to be recognized for something in front of her peers. This is something I cannot relate to at all, except for the times when I always relate to it. I mean, this is what I want...to be seen. To be told by people I respect that I am good at what I do. I wanted my girl to have that same affirmation showered over her.

So the weeks went by and Ainsley gave it her best go. Over many family dinners she recounted the ways she'd put her things away before her teacher asked her to or how she'd helped a friend with their work. She felt she was well in the running for the award and so did we.

While chaperoning the Kinder Field Trip the other day I spotted one student behind a large group of kids. They were all in front of an enclosed area where the curator was sharing facts about a sea animal. But this little girl couldn't see anything but the backs of her classmates. Ainsley noticed that she was left behind and put her hand on the small of the child's back and parted the way between the other kids making a way for this girl to see the display. She proceeded to point out where the turtles were and how one was already sixty years old. How some of them live to be over one-hundred. She made sure this little one heard everything she had and didn't miss a thing. I was so proud and immediately looked for the teacher to see if she'd noticed. I knew she was just to my left so I felt it was a perfect moment for her to observe and file away in her invisible log this character filled moment. Can't deny this one. Coyote Character right there, baby!! But the teacher was looking the other way and onto some other students. She didn't see any of it. But isn't character who you are when no one's looking? Sure is.

At last the notice came from the school to invite us to come and see our daughter receive the Coyote Character Award. Proud moment. Except, it wasn't for Ainsley, it was for Emerson. Oh. At the very same instant I was both elated for Emerson and heartsick for Ainsley.

I thought of how I was going to tell Ainsley. How would I explain that she wouldn't be getting the award this time but her sister (who has given this award zero seconds of thought) would be awarded instead. It's not that Emerson cancelled out Ainsley's chance since they're in different grades, but I was afraid it would translate this way in kindergarten logic. So, I followed the pattern that has proven me well over my almost decade tenure in motherhood, I avoided it. I said not one word. I pretended it wasn't really happening, and waited it out.

Yesterday was the award ceremony and even as the girls ventured off to school Ainsley still had no idea that Emerson was going to be awarded and she was not. There are separate award ceremonies for each grade, so I figured there was a good chance that the school day would wrap before Ainsley realized that Emerson was chosen. But I knew there was no way for her to get through the kindergarten ceremony without realizing she had not been chosen. The picture of her sitting with her legs criss-cross applesauce, blue eyes looking up to the teacher who would call out a name not her own made my heart sick. I love equity and fairness and good competition. But I have to tell you that I wouldn't have minded one bit if the teacher had given Ainsley the award as a little treat for me. A kind of "Hey, I noticed that Nordstrom gift card you arranged from the class. Those times you organized the parties. The stuff you cut out for me. For all of that I'm giving baby girl the desire of her heart." Teacher gifts and volunteer hours don't buy character awards for your kid, turns out. Of course I wouldn't want them to, except for maybe just this one time. (smile)

Ainsley has character, awarded or not. She's got it. And I could not possibly be more proud of her. We all long for affirmation and I'm learning that it's not wrong to want it as long as we remember we couldn't be anymore worthy of love and acceptance than we are right now. We needn't wait for it to believe the best in ourselves. But when it comes, when the awards are given, we will most definitely celebrate.

I have forthwith bequeathed Ainsley the Master of Ceremonies for the Coyote Character Award show we will be hosting right here at home. I plan to read the beautiful words Emerson's peers spoke over her and Ainsley plans to impart them to her with a little wand. And you know what? There's a moment that makes me proud of my Ainsley. Celebrating the success of someone else and truly being happy for them - that's the true unveiling of the contents of our heart.

In closing, I leave you with the words spoken over my precious Emerson Hope. I was proud before and remain so. But.these.words.

Just wow.

Our class chose Emerson to receive the Coyote Character Award. She is very deserving and we all couldn't agree more. Her classmates had many nice things to say about her that I would like to share. Emerson has been a great leader all year! She has always shown the 7 Habits. She is a leader in and out of the classroom. She is funny, nice, sweet, and encouraging. She has a big heart and loves to help and pray with people. I think Emerson deserves it because she really never says no to anyone. She is nice to everyone. She always listens to what you have to say. She always has a smile on her face. I know I can always count on Emerson. She is a smart, amazing, and beautiful classmate.

Mrs. P said, I am so lucky to have Emerson in my class this year. She cares so much about everyone and does everything with her whole heart. What a special gift!

We are so proud of your Emerson, and we are so glad you're in our class! Congratulations.


3 Comments so far - Add yours!

  1. Been saving this to area until I had a moment. So, so good! Girl, I admit it. I shed a tear or two especially while reading the beginning when your little was asking if you'd be even more proud of her if she won. Where do we get that and why does it start so young? I was envisioning a discussion group forming out of just that one question. Beautifully written, sister!

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  2. Wow. Look at those tender-hearted girls of yours. And what an interesting snag in the award. How wonderful for Emerson, but a rather bitter pill for Ainsley. To think that at the ripe age of 5, she has a heart for others and can celebrate her sister's achievement. You and your husband are raising exceptional young women!
    I am wishing I could have a parenting do-over. As a new Christian, I was doing my best to teach right values {and for the most part, we have pretty amazing kids} but I feel like I really missed it on teaching kindness and compassion {and a host of other beatitudes}. Probably because I am very deficient in those areas… I grew up in a much different environment. Even though I was a "good kid," I think I could have done well being intentionally taught about kindness and less about sarcasm.
    Kudos to my "grandlittles" for being such wonderful witnesses about generosity of spirit and the love of Jesus.

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  3. Beautiful words as always! Yay! for Ainsley! Patience won!!❤️

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