We all need to breathe. Period. Let’s not forget that, okay moms? Then why is it so common that fear and anxiety frequently cause moms to forget to breathe? Because motherhood is constant chaos.
Sometimes in your attempt to support your child, you worry, maybe an unhealthy amount, about their reactions to failure. Failure should be viewed as an opportunity to learn and grow and succeed in the future. But does failure need to be extremely public or potentially humiliating? In worrying about our kids, moms sometimes forget to breathe.
Everyone has failures. I have closets full of stories of my personal failures, but many of them are hidden and few people know. To be honest, many of my failures were not a complete surprise.
For instance, I merged my private practice briefly with another group who seemed to mesh well with me. There was full disclosure about the type of practice I ran and my patient population. However, within a couple of months, I knew an ugly impending failure was coming. It is like any relationship, you can tell if it fits very early on. A bad fit can be forced, but the end will still be the same. I tried to make the ugly merger a prettier one and tried to reinvent myself to be the person they wanted instead of the person they knew I was; nevertheless, six months into our relationship, they asked for a divorce.
I actually felt immediate relief. Every day I would go to work and hold my breath that things would get better. Who needs a job where you forget to breathe? “When one door closes another one opens.” I soon found a perfectly compatible group to join which has allowed me to thrive under their umbrella. (Shout out to ENT of Georgia!).
So clearly, I understand failure will happen throughout life, and I needed to teach my girls how to handle it. Despite my lawnmower parenting, I still had high anxiety at the prospects of them failing in an ugly, public way that could lead to permanent harm and inner scarring. Imagine a performing child who gets stage fright and starts crying or falls to the deepest levels of fear and wets his/her pants. These events can be extremely difficult to move past, and I wasn’t having it! My fear of their failure would cause me to forget to breathe.
My Early Fear of my Daughters’ Possible Failures
I don’t know exactly when my fear of them publicly failing actually started. I do recall when my oldest daughter was in preschool and she needed to recite several nursery rhymes for the parents and teachers, my anxiety was extremely high at that time. Although failures may occur, I raised my girls to work hard, fight and avoid it. Go down swinging!
It did not matter that my younger daughter was only two years old, she was equally involved in an preventing ugly public failure. Each night my daughters teamed up to learn the hand gestures and body swaying movements that accompanied “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” and “Mary Had a little Lamb”. Both of them put on my homemade tinfoil headbands with lopsided stars, and dress rehearsals and practices in our home occurred every night after dinner.
Showtime. Classmate after classmate stood up in front of the parents and promptly forgot their lines. Some happily made up new lines, some looked to the teachers and parents to lip read the forgotten words, while others simply cried and were ushered to the safety of their parent’s lap.
This is when I glanced at my daughter and could see anxiety overcoming her. We had done this countless times at home, and she was more than prepared. But, although she had previously been standing tall and ready to perform, her confidence was melting in front of my eyes!
What to do? Momma Addict to the rescue! I needed to prevent the pending crash and burn, so I pulled the teacher aside and asked if we could bring over my younger daughter from the babies’ room.
In came the fearless two year old who proudly walked up to her sister and enjoyed the attention of standing with the big kids. My oldest daughter immediately stood tall with confidence. They both put on the now wrinkly, very lopsided foil star headbands and put on a rousing show!
That moment just might have sealed my concern that despite hard work, kids can soak up the fear and sense of impending doom that other kids near them are showing. Hoping to avoid this situation, many moms forget to breathe.
I Continued to Forget to Breathe
I was a “behind the scenes” girl most of my life; consequently, I was not in high pressure situations where public failure was an option. It became a requirement that the entire family was involved in practices for each child’s performances. Countless oral presentations, dance performances, talent shows, and karate competitions all were preceded by extremely hard work and practice. But in the end, they were pleased with their performances despite last minute fears. My girls learn to support each other which helped them get through.
Me? I never stopped gripping my purse and holding my breath. There was not a single live presentation that I ever fully enjoyed because I would forget to breathe. That is a regret I still have. I did not live in the moment but prayed for their success. I would catch it on the DVD that I purchased or that my husband recorded. At the time, I could not simply relax and breathe.
So, you might think this behavior was limited to grade school through high school activities. You would be wrong. But I wish it were true.
In 2014, my daughter put together a team of impressive young women who worked to design a mobile toilet for under-served people in the world. Presenting during a live, televised broadcast, she competed in the country’s largest college level invention competition: The Georgia Tech Inventure Prize.
I was a nervous wreck, nearly paralyzed by the fear of an ugly public, now televised, potential failure.
Yes, my daughter’s team won, and it was an amazing experience…that I later watched on video because during the performance, I did forget to breathe. I was numb and light-headed when they announced the winner. The audience was going wild; I instinctively stood up and took pictures…because that was my job, too! It was all a blur. People asked why I wasn’t crying. I was busy getting oxygen back to my brain.
6 Times Moms Forget to Breathe
In retrospect, I wish I could have experienced my children’s successes as they were happening. My breath holding was not helpful and served no purpose. The hard work and preparation had been done, and I needed to just let my girls shine and do what they had trained to do.
It was not a need to win or to be the best that drove me. It was the need to prevent catastrophic events that permanently leave scars and stop them from reaching for greatness in the future. Despite my best efforts, we still had some of these ugly failures. Simply mentioning certain events can bring a glazed look across my child’s eyes!
1. Acting performances
Whether your child is the star of the play or is tree #4, there are cues and possible words that need to be memorized. Work with your child after dinner, driving in the car or laying on the beach. The more you practice, the more it will become second nature to your child.
Karate competitions were my number one enemy. Not only was I afraid of my daughter getting hurt (yeah, sorry I’m not sorry), but karate beat downs are very pubic. I am forever grateful my husband would step his game and required my daughter to attend classes every night the week prior to competitions. Getting a trophy was a bonus in my book because I was extremely proud of the work she put in and how she handled her victories and defeats.
3. Sporting Events
My girls played sports every season. Your child may not be the star, but are they going to be “cut” from teams or “ride the bench”? Do not be that mom asking the coach why your child is not playing more or why did not make the Varsity team. You know.
Be honest about the effort your child has put into the sport. If you feel they need extra help, look for a mentor, coach or practice buddy. Help your child develop the work ethic and mindset of being a champion. My daughters were not the best, but they played at the highest level on varsity sports teams. Every year when tryouts occur, there can be a pause where you wonder how your child will react to not making the team. Avoid that moment where you might forget to breathe. Instead ensure they are working harder to achieve their own goals.
4. Talent Shows
These occurred every year in our house from elementary through middle school. Extremely public where the entire audience is looking directly at your child on that stage. I have previously described my family’s journey through these talent show years. Use my techniques to put your children in the best possible position for success.
5. Piano Recitals
My daughters played keyboard and piano from preschool through high school. Countless lessons and recitals gave them an amazing foundation and love for music. However, in the early days, I would forget to breathe when I witnessed other precious preschoolers public failures. They would forget their notes, cry and run offstage.
At age 4, that can be a very scarring event. Playing wrong notes, pausing and starting over: those are signs of a victory because you kept going. You can be sure those pianos keys were getting alot of use before recitals. It should be a very rare instance where you child has to quit mid recital if you have repeatedly heard them play successfully at home.
The key to success is parental oversight of practices. I know parents let kids decide to practice or not. That can be like rolling to dice to see if the recital is successful or note.
6. Major Presentations
One of my favorite parts of watching my girls advance through school was watching them take ownership of their presentations. Your child may excel writing papers and taking tests, but they need to also excel at communicating their work publicly. From book reports, research project to complex high school IB presentations, kids need to have parent support at having a dedicated work ethic in order to be successful.
These skills also helped prepare my girls for advance college competitions, class projects, internship interviews and graduate school thesis presentations. I no longer forget to breathe. My kids have arrived and know what they need to do for success.
To the moms out there with young kids, please help your child prepare for their performances. Teach them the skills they need to avoid potholes, then LET GO OF YOUR PURSE. Take a deep breath, smile and enjoy. If a stumble occurs, you are ready to discuss and asses options for future improvements. But live in the moment. Right now.
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