My daughter, a precocious age six (which seems more like sixteen), has a special gift. She is compassionate beyond her years. Her kindergarten teacher remarked to me that she hasn't often seen a child of that age with such a tender heart for others. Six-year olds are naturally live-for-the-moment beings; they just want to have fun and please themselves. Amelia's gentle soul is a blessing to me, as my heart fills with joy when I see her share her love. But her tender heart also causes excess worry. She worries more than many kids her age. I have to push her to try new things, talk her through new (i.e., scary for her) social moments, and hold her up when she is angry with herself for occasionally being "bad".
Last week, Amelia participated in British Soccer Camp (via Challenger Sports, here in the Atlanta suburbs). She has enjoyed rec soccer for two years, and she has done well accepting the new coaches and teammates as each season ends and begins again. But Mom and/or Dad are always there.
British Soccer Camp was more serious. The coaches traveled from England and Wales to work on technique and hone the kids' soccer (futbol) savvy. I dropped her off at 9 am and picked her up at 1 pm every day, Monday through Friday. She barely slept the Sunday night prior. She was worried about not being good enough. She feared not making any friends. She was extremely nervous that I planned to drop her off.
I admit, it was really difficult to leave that morning. I might have driven past the field once. Or maybe twice. I kept thinking of her standing there on the field, the only kid with glasses (she notices such things), one of only four girls in the entire camp, totally unsure of where to go or what to do.
I was just as nervous as she was.
Day one went ok, and we continued the routine each day that week. She was quiet the first two afternoons. She didn't want to talk about camp. However, by Wednesday pick-up, she was chatting me up with information about the World Cup and adorable exclamations like "WHEW, I was roasting out there!", along with requests for Popsicles and pizza. One week later, and she continues to share tidbits of her learning experience with the cool young soccer players with neat accents.
Each day became easier for her, thus easier for me. What began with a feeling of "what did I do?" ended with a swell of pride for her bravery, her willingness to learn, and the glimpses of "oomph" she exhibited. In keeping with her compassionate nature, she worried about one child who received an injury that day, asking me many times if I thought he'd be ok. But she also broke away from her worry and showed some confidence.
My gentle lady grew up a little bit more last week, and reminded me that it is ok to push her out of her comfort zone. In fact, with her particular personality, it is probably necessary. She ends up shining a little brighter.