Braver Than I

When I’m alone, or with my immediate family, or with very close (and equally silly) friends, I can be myself. But I am reserved and downright shy when out of my comfort zone. I like to blend in amongst a crowd of strangers. And it seems as if my son has inherited this shyness from me. Even with people that he knows, he sometimes struggles with answering the simplest of questions.

When my son won a recent art contest, we received admittance to a black tie gala benefitting the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. At first, I was ecstatic. As I rattled off all of the details to my husband, it felt like we were Cinderella and family.

The elation lasted until reality set in. My husband didn’t own a black suit. I didn’t own a formal gown. My children had only “church clothes” at best: khakis and polo shirts. When checking the website for confirmation of appropriate attire, I noticed that the gala was attended by the city’s “most prominent professional and social leaders.” My throat constricted. Our living room got hotter. I wasn’t sure we could do this.

The next day, I got a message on Facebook from a friend. She asked about the gala and asked if we would definitely be attending. Nervously, I confirmed that we would be there, and she didn’t hesitate to purchase tickets for her family to attend. They were familiar with black tie events. They had the attire. They knew how the evening would proceed. They had the financial resources. They would be at our table, at our sides, giving us the support we would need.

So I dug through our closets. I had shoes from our wedding. My husband had pants, a dress shirt, and a tie. My oldest son had black dress shoes. My youngest son had a tie. I borrowed a dress and jewelry from my mother-in-law. And thanks to a good sale at Kohl’s, we were able to purchase what we lacked. I knew we weren’t going to be on the best-dressed list, but I hoped that we would blend in enough to satisfy my comfort zone.

When we arrived to the event, there were men in tuxedos and snappy black suits. There were women in flowing, sparkling gowns. And yet, I didn’t feel out of place. Our boys got a lot of attention. Men and women alike were giving my oldest son high-fives and making comments on how handsome he looked. Our baby boy got lots of “awws” in his Mickey Mouse hand-me-down tie. I started to feel at ease. Like we were supposed to be there, and like we were catching a glimpse at how the other half lives at the same time.

As we sat at the table for dinner, our children joked and laughed. My friend asked our son if he had prepared a speech for when he goes on stage to talk about his artwork. And suddenly, all of my panicking returned. I had been so worried about our appearances and blending in, that I had failed to help my son, the only one of us who was truly going to be on display.

“We’ll just wing it,” I said, nodding confidently at my son, despite all of the “you’re a terrible mother!” alarms going off in my head.

My friend offered my son her expertise. “You need to get up there and say, ‘I made this artwork to help my brother who has CF. It’s worth MILLIONS. I need you to open your pocketbooks, and DIG AS DEEP AS YOU POSSIBLY CAN.”

We all laughed. It was a great speech, and I was kicking myself for not thinking of something so clever to help him.

When the MC called my son to the stage, he jumped out of his seat and marched straight to the stage. He was on a mission. I could see a twinge of nervousness in his face, but there was enough determination there that I knew he was going to do it. He was going to stand in front of all of those well-dressed people and speak. I stood next to the stage with my husband, holding our baby boy in my arms. My son climbed up the step stool at the podium. From the front, one could see only his little blue eyes and forehead. The MC asked him to step down and stand next to his artwork instead. He asked my son to tell everyone a little bit about his artwork. My son was quiet. Although I could see him collecting his thoughts, none of them were making their way out.

“Dig deep!” my friend whispered loudly from the audience.

My son looked at her. Then he looked over at us. And then quietly but clearly he said, “My brother painted the green grass, and then I drew the flowers and painted them. And that’s all I remember.” Everyone chuckled at his cuteness. It was the perfect speech. Not rehearsed, not embellished. A simple response that was all his own.

The auctioneer started the bidding, and he was quickly on a roll. My son watched as the hands went up around the room. $500. $550. $600. $700. $800. $900.

“I should keep you up here all night!” the auctioneer said to my son.

My son replied, “I don’t know if I could stay up here all night. I might get tired.”

More chuckles from the crowd. $1,000. $1,100. $1,200. Going once. Going twice. My son’s artwork was sold to a gentleman in the front for $1,200.

Now that everything is back to normal in our cozy little home, there are no more anxieties. I left all of those at the gala, and I returned home with more pride in my son than I’ve ever felt, more thankfulness in the generosity of people like our friends, and an internal acknowledgement that my six-year-old son was braver that night than I have ever been.

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41 Comments on “Braver Than I”

  1. What an awsome night! It sounds just about perfect.
    Btw, I also worry about my children recieving my shyness. I hate to think it will be hard for them because of this trait.

  2. Erica M says:

    You made me cry and now I’m kinda angry about it. I pride myself on being a cynical and dried up old coot. This was a nice read while you and I are waiting for your submission to clear the queue. Thanks for sharing it.

  3. great story.. and we all know, the best designer to wear is confidence… and being six and adorable doesn’t hurt. glad you had a great night. πŸ™‚

  4. I might get tired – how precious!! Love it.

  5. Darling!! I didn’t expect him to be so young! Good for him, you and the CF Foundation!

  6. This is so sweet on so many levels, I loved it! You must be so proud!

    • I was very proud. Overwhelmed. A blubbering, emotional wreck. I’ve calmed down a bit since then though, otherwise I never would have been able to even write about it! Thank you so much for reading and commenting! πŸ™‚

  7. outlawmama says:

    Lovely, lovely, lovely. You made Erica cry!!! And me, by the way, but I cry in almost all the submissions except that guy who does hilarious stuff. Check him out when he hits the grid. Birdman. Anyway, this is a beautiful story– your son is the cutest ever. Proud of you and him. Great post.

  8. Ginny Marie says:

    What a cutie! And his artwork is wonderful, too! It sounds like the perfect evening. πŸ™‚

  9. I was holding my breath waiting to see what he would do up there! I’m glad that things turned out and that your family was able to stay true even at an event outside the comfort zone. Also really neat that he raised so much money!

  10. Awesome post. Even better result. My opinion? Things happened the way they did simply because you were yourselves. Formal-clothes-hunting, from-the-heart-speaking, and genuine. Well done.

  11. IASoupMama says:

    What a fantastic and wonderful memory to have about your kids! Good job, mama! And great job, little man!

  12. Azara says:

    You know what – you probably made it easier for him by not making a big deal of the speech. I’m terrified of public speaking and the anticipation has always been the worst part. It sounds like a lovely evening, and those photos are wonderful!

  13. christina says:

    oh my word, this brougth tears to my eyes!! no way could i have gone to an event like that, spoken in front of a crowd like that. six years old? AWESOME. i can only imagine how proud you are because i’m proud and i don’t even know you guys!

  14. Tomekha says:

    Reaaally beautiful. I’m very proud of your son too. … I too struggle with those issues of shyness and being uncomfortable with people…I’m sure he will overcome it as he grows older. *hugs for him*

  15. Angela Ryan says:

    How cool! This story is just precious and inspiring … and the photo made my heart melt. How wonderful!

  16. Awwwww! I loved this story so much. What a sweet little boy you have!

  17. Vanessa says:

    We’re like that – no going out clothes because we go out so rarely. It turns events into something pretty uncomfortable.

    Your little guy is a trooper to get up in front of people and speak.

  18. Larks says:

    Oh my goodness how cute! And those pictures! Squee! So adorable!

  19. You must be soo proud of your son. If I were there I would definitely seek him out after and shake his brave hand.Thank you for linking up to the Empowered Living Hop, I hope to see you again.

  20. You must be very proud of your little one! he looks so brave in those pictures! Yesterday, I went to a parent-meeting for my nephew because my brother and sister-in-law couldn’t go, so the teacher told me my nephew was too , I felt bad because all of us we are extremely shy and I didn’t want the same for my nephew or son, so I understand your little boy must have been very shy but brave too! πŸ™‚ Glad you had a nice family evening! πŸ™‚

  21. […] never attended a cocktail party; I have an anxiety for that kind of setting. But here is my longer version of an elevator pitch, should the occasion ever […]

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