Say goodbye to the shy
Cath Jenkin watches as her daughter comes out of her shy cocoon to become a social butterfly.
“Mom, how did you get to be so brave?” – she asked me this, one morning, just before we set off to the dentist. I looked at her, mildly awed. To me, I’m not brave. In fact, in my head, I’m a weak-kneed idiot who battles to find the right words to say, most of the time. To her, though, I’m a heroine (and long may that last – I know that when the teenage years hit, this opinion may change for a while).

I asked her to define what she thought courage was. Whilst I fully expected some long-winded story about swashbuckling princes who rescue damsels in distress, I was surprised when she responded: “Brave people don’t get scared when people ask them questions”.

She’s right, you know. Courage comes from being able to stand up for what you believe in, and respond to enquiries about your actions. When I asked her why she thought that, she said: “It’s like when someone asks me my name and I don’t know them…and I really try to answer them…I think I’m getting better at it”.

Blessed with the, sometimes, chronic shyness she inherited from me, I know it can be difficult to even say your name to someone new. But, she’s learning.  
And that is where I need to learn to let go. Knowing that she sometimes becomes a shy girl in the face of strangers, I often find myself answering questions for her. Slowly though, I’ve noted she’s started answering them herself before I can.

I see it all the more often now, as she talks to the lady who cuts her hair, or introduces herself to her new teacher. She’s happy to show me that it’s okay for me to let go a little here, and let her speak for herself.

There’s the ‘letting go’ chestnut again. It’s that difficultly wonderful milestone accomplishment feeling that leaves us parents in a state of glee and total sadness that that little cute part of childhood is over.

She’s making new friends and has started ordering for herself in restaurants, with a smile and a “thank you”. I realise now that the only way I can teach her courage is to set the example. So I do, even though my voice occasionally shakes and I worry about whether I’m articulating myself correctly.

It’s through setting that example, that I hope she learns, from me, to feel confident about herself. So when a maths question boggles her brain, or something flummoxes her into silence, I remind her that it’s okay to feel uncertain, and that it’s even more important that she tries.

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