My dearest Blake,
You left for school that day so excited knowing that you were going to your very first art class that afternoon. I was just as excited for you. You had been asking for months if you could start art classes and when I enrolled you, we talked about it for weeks. I still remember to this day when your Grandma and Grandpa signed me up for my own art classes and allowed me the opportunity at such a young age to run with something I showed interest and talent in. No matter how old you get, please know that I completely understand you. Your need for being creative and the energy you feel when getting to create something out of nothing. I understand it because I feel that exact same energy.
I picked you up once the bell rang, took your backpack for you and knelt down. “Are you so excited for your art class?”, I asked with a smile. The corners of your mouth slowly turned up as you remembered what is is you got to do that day. That smile was everything to me in that moment because I knew the possibilities of what could happen at any given moment and I was trying my hardest to keep your nerves at a level of excitement instead of fear. You see, Blake… at six years years old you have a very timid personality. At home you are quite the little character and we enjoy seeing you blossom more and more. However, around anyone else, you become a different Blake. Your shyness becomes debilitating when confronted with new situations or people. It has been a hurdle that we have continually had to try to overcome over and over.It’s more than a hurdle for you. It has been a journey of sorts.
After finding your older brother, we headed to the front office to ask them where your class would be held. After taking down the room number, we were pointed in the direction of the double doors where your art teacher was standing and waiting for everyone in the class to arrive. We walked over and she greeted you with a big smile. I extended my hand and told her who I was. By the time I turned my focus to you to introduce you, I saw that your eyes had welled up with tears and your chin was quivering. You weren’t excited anymore. You now knew what you had gotten into and you were retreating back into your proverbial shell. Watching you go through these moments of fear and anxiety are some of the hardest of my life. I may not understand this fear myself or experienced it at your age, but I do understand when one of my children is struggling. I sent a sympathetic and motherly look towards your art teacher and I then wrapped an arm around you and led you a few steps away for some privacy, hoping I could help you compose yourself.
No sooner had I knelt down to face you when the words came out of your mouth in a whisper, “Please don’t make me go”. I closed my eyes and hung my head in sheer inner conflict. It’s these moments as a mother that make me question if I am even capable of raising children. From the beginning, there are times that I have had to toughen up and deal with one of my children being upset. A rub-dirt-on-it type of parenting method because I knew it was better for you. Every single one of you cried your eyes out your first few Sundays in nursery at church. Your older brother went as far as laying by the door with his fingers reaching out from underneath while I sat in the hallway with tears streaming down my cheeks. Please remember that I was a new mom in uncharted territory. Hearing my 18 month old scream for me was not something I ever wanted to hear and parenting is definitely not for the weak. I knew he needed to get through it just like all of you did. However, as I have watched my children grow and develop personalities, I now have a healthy respect for a little something called anxiety. Let’s be honest. It’s a big something. And you, my dear, have dealt with it from the start.
Watching your older brother in new situations, while he is nervous, he gets through it and enjoys himself and the experience. You? It’s not the same. Not even close. And I know this because in the beginning, I made you go through certain situations. Why? I probably thought it was the best thing for you. I probably thought that maybe making you do it would allow you to see how great the experience could be. Your dad and I quickly learned after the first few times that this was not the way to handle it for you. It was no longer a healthy fear. It was a debilitating and suffocating fear to be pushed into new situations and left. You crawled into your shell and it would take several days for you to come back out of it and be the Blake that we all know at home. Ever since then, your Dad and I have learned to be very methodical about how to approach new situations and experiences. We map everything out and discuss everything together ahead of time in hopes of creating a very comfortable environment for you to feel safe and secure in. It doesn’t always work, but we have learned your triggers and what works best.
I sat there looking into your eyes that have now become red and puffy. You tried hard to hide your face from the kids walking by. You were embarrassed, but unable to control your emotions. And my heart broke for you. Just as it always does.
“Do you want me to sit and take the class with you?”, I asked hoping that the thought of having me there would be enough. You shook your head. “Do you want to just sit in the back of the class so we can see what they are learning?”, you shook your head no again. I looked up at your brother with a desperate look. He put his arm around you and told you it would be OK. He and I both knew there was no coming back from this. I gave you a few more minutes to see if you could compose yourself, but I’m sure those minutes felt like hours for you. I stood up, took a deep breath, walked over to your art teacher and explained the situation. Of course she replied with the usual offers that everyone has when we are in these predicaments, but being your mother I knew best. And despite feeling that every parent in that lobby thought I was giving in, I turned, took you by the hand and we walked out the door to the parking lot. I have learned to let go of everyone’s opinions. Eight years of motherhood has toughened my exterior and softened my insides. No one knows the depth of this struggle and we do and will always deal with it the best way we know how. And what is best for you.
No matter how long it takes, I will always have your hand as you navigate new waters, but the other part of me is so sad to know the experiences you are missing out on. And while you are only six years old, I know that you will outgrow this so that you can embrace new and exciting things. You have such incredible gifts and I don’t want anything to hold you back from sharing them. So for now, I hold tightly to the times we have together sketching, coloring and creating. At the kitchen table I get to know you better than anyone else. I get to see your eyes light up and that energy come out and I can’t wait for others to experience who and what you are.
Always know that you have my hand to hold until you can hold yourself up without falling. And even then. Happy sixth birthday, my sweet Miss Blake.
With every piece of me and more,