Once upon a time, my older son had a huge fear of the unknown and a heavy dose of anxiety.
In fifth grade, he crawled under his bed and refused to come out when he had to do something he was unsure of. It was hard to get him to try anything new — even if it might be fun. I worried he would miss out on life and wondered how he’d fare in high school.
But maturity helped. He made it through his first day of high school and even his first year. There were rocky parts — but he finished the year much stronger and more confident. He was even a little cocky thanks to the fact that he was invited to the prom at the neighboring girls school.
This year, as a sophomore, he really came into his own. He took more ownership of his school work and volunteered to go on school sponsored trips and workshops, even if none of his friends were going. When he was invited to the prom again, his head swelled several sizes — kind of like the Grinch’s heart but not necessarily in a good way.
Then, a month or so ago, he decided to run for president of his junior class. I was so proud that he was willing to take the risk but wondered if he’d actually go through with it. To run, he had to write and make a speech which stretched him out of his comfort zone. I wondered what would happen if he messed up and disappointed himself.
When he was younger, he disappointed himself a lot — when he’d get angry, lose control or let his fears get the best of him. But not this time. He made the speech and felt good about how it went. He thought he had a good chance at winning the presidency. I was proud of him and hoped he would win. Every mom wants her kid to win.
As it turns out, he didn’t win. He didn’t even come in among the top three (the two runners up get to be vice presidents). At first, my heart sank for him, but then I saw how well he handled losing. There was no hint of bitterness or disappointment. He congratulated the winners and was genuinely happy for the boy who won. I think I was more proud of the graceful way he handled losing than I would have been if he had won.
It’s possible that if he had won the presidency, his already inflated ego would have gotten out of hand. But even though he lost, he didn’t lose his confidence. It was truly a win-win situation.
So gone is the little boy who crawled under his bed and refused to come out for fear of the unknown. That little boy has grown into this amazing young man who is not afraid to take risks and handles disappointment with poise and diplomacy. I can’t wait to see where he goes from here.
FranklyStein is a blog by Chesapeake Family Magazine editor Betsy Stein, who lives in Catonsville with her husband, Chris, and four children, Maggie, 17, Lilly, 15, Adam, 15, and Jonah, 11.