A few months ago, my son, Buddy, decided he wanted to go to an open audition for the WGBH TV show, Fetch. In our family of four we have one rule for our children, Jasmine and Buddy, “Be whatever you want to be and Venus and I will do our best to support you in it.”
Buddy showed up to the audition with 2200 other children. Buddy’s confidence from the very first audition was extremely high. He told Venus he was a shoo-in.
Buddy got called back four times. And at the fourth audition, Buddy was one of five boys and thirteen girls remaining. Buddy reported that he felt he did extremely well during his audition and Venus had spent much time with him helping to prepare. For Fetch only three boys and three girls would be chosen. So after Buddy’s fourth audition, we were all nervously excited that Buddy was assured a spot on the show.
Three days ago, Buddy, Jasmine and Venus, came back from a trip to the museum. I was working from home and had already received a phone call from the audition company and had learned the results of Buddy’s last try-out. When Buddy entered the house, he immediately checked the phone messages and noticed that the casting agency had called. Venus was already in my office when Buddy came and stood in front of me apprehensively waiting for an answer. I looked at him and with no words I slowly shook my head from left to right, signifying he did not make the final cut.
Buddy looked at me, stood up straight and said, “I didn’t get it? OK. That’s OK.” At the very moment I was so proud of him because my twelve-year-old son was being so very brave. I took Buddy on my knee, put my arms around him, looked directly in his eyes and spoke to him softly.
“Buddy, it’s OK to feel whatever it is you want to feel right now. I personally feel angry that they did not choose you, I feel hurt and sad because I feel they made a big mistake by not choosing you. You are my son and you are such an amazing kid and I have that right to feel this way. So, you go ahead and feel whatever you want to feel right now.”
At that moment, tears were rolling down my cheeks, Buddy’s eyes started to well up and I held him for a while as he cried on my shoulder. Buddy then turned to mom, stretched out his arms and Venus and I both put our arms around him and enveloped him with our warmth, love and assurance.
I realize now, that this event in Buddy’s life was a pivotal moment for all of us.
When Buddy was younger, if he bruised or cut himself while playing, Venus or I would put some Bactine on his cut, wipe the blood away, place a Band-Aid on it, give him a hug and assure him that everything was going to be OK.
As parents we know small cuts, scrapes and bruises eventually go away and leave no scars. We also know that the pain our children feel, when they hurt themselves, is temporary. Soon they may forget the pain they felt and perhaps even the memory of the accident, once the scar disappears.
This was a pivotal event for our family because the wound that Buddy received was so very different from the ones he received when he was younger.
The wound that Buddy received cut deeply, it was open and it was “bleeding.” But, Venus and I could not simply spray Bactine on his wound, wipe the blood away and place a Band-Aid on it. Neither could we rush him to an emergency room, hand him off to a surgeon, and say, “Repair him. Make this all go away”.
Buddy took his first steps into Manhood. He dared to ask of himself to take a chance on something that he wanted so very much. Buddy knew there was a chance that if he auditioned for Fetch, they might say no. But he also knew they might say yes.
The wound that Buddy received from this experience will heal. The “bleeding” will slow, then cease, and the wound will close. But, it will leave a scar.
Venus and I cannot prevent Buddy (or Jasmine, for that matter) from getting wounded along their way through this wonderful experience we call life. Nor should we. It is not our place to shield them from every possible thing that could bring them harm and pain – things that could leave them with invisible, indelible scars they may carry throughout the rest of their lives. Pain, sorrow, joy, laughter, love… All are part of a full and rich life experience.
What I learned most from this experience? Just to show up. Just be there. To put my arms around Buddy, and tell him I love him and that it’s OK. “It’s OK.”