Allowing ourselves to be vulnerable may be the ultimate type of courage: putting it all out there on the line, showing others our inner selves, feelings, hopes and dreams. I have come to realize that being vulnerable is not an attribute that comes easily to many. But when it does, it is oh-so powerful.
Last night I came home from work, to be given a beautiful piece of Valentine’s artwork that Ethan had created. He had been talking about it all week – the thought he had poured into it, and his certainty that it was the best drawing he had ever done. But before I could begin to look forward to seeing the completed work, he confided that he wanted to give it as a gift to a girl in his class. So when he lovingly handed it to me last night – with a side conversation with his dad that he “didn’t want to talk about it” – I accepted it graciously, but with the understanding that I was his second choice.
I remember being that grade-school girl, with a crush on a classmate (for me, it was usually two… Nino and Mark – from kindergarten to grade 6) And I also remember that I was afraid of being teased if everyone knew that I “liked someone”. In having a heartfelt conversation with Ethan last night, I shared with him a story of my grade three dance. I can still remember Mark getting the courage up to come over and ask me to dance. And I had such a HUGE crush on him… and I said no.
Now, as a mom on the other side of that story, I feel terrible, knowing how potentially crushing a little thing like that can be. In talking about girls and crushes, I had already shared this story with Ethan, just to prove that actions don’t always reflect what someone (particularly grade school girls) are thinking. But last night he looked at me as I reminded him of my age-9 actions, eyes wide, imploring: “But Mom! WHY would you do that?!”
Why indeed? A lack of courage, I guess. I was not confident enough to let myself be vulnerable – even though the boys in these instances were. I am pretty sure that in Ethan’s case his first rejection was based on similar reasoning. And because I was once that girl, I really can’t place the blame on her. We can just try to explain the strange workings of the human heart – all-the-more difficult to understand when it’s at this age.
Both Dean and I had a similar conversation with him – about how much courage it takes to show someone your true feelings. And how that kind of courage is often the hardest kind to have. We reminded him of all the ways he has overcome fears in the past (like in the story about giving a speech in front of the whole school) And we let him know how very proud of him we are. But when we asked if he thought he might be brave enough to try again one day, he hesitated. “I don’t know.” he said. And I understood. Right now the heart wounds are pretty raw. A big hug was the best I could do – and to encourage him to keep on putting it out there.
Oh, my boy with his huge heart. Mine aches a little for him right now. But I am so proud that he took that vulnerable step anyways.
I know with time it will heal. And let me tell you – the girl who one day gets his heart… well, she will be loved to the ends of the earth.
And Mark – my apology is coming shortly… even though it’s almost 30 years overdue.