My parents taught me a great deal about being an adult. Some lessons were conveyed through their behavior and others through their words.
And some lessons were never delivered at all.
I don’t blame Mom and Dad. Since I am now a parent, I realize that we can only do our best and then hope for the best.
Which is exactly what my parents did.
They taught me that the only person I should ever rely on is myself and that women have just as much potential as men. They taught me that I should never gauge my success in terms of what I have gained but instead in terms of what I have given. And most of all they taught me the importance of individuality and independence.
What they didn’t teach me was that I shouldn’t feel compelled to overcome my insecurities and imperfections. Instead, there are times when I just need to accept that they are part of my DNA and the essence of how I interact with the world. And accepting that is so much less stressful than fighting it.
But there are times when that DNA affects how I get through life. My mom loves telling the story about when I had been selected to narrate the school program and showed absolutely no nerves. I stood in front of a microphone in a gym full of people and didn’t hesitate to grab the mic and speak into it. I was steel. I had been trusted with a job, and I did that job to the best of my ability. Then I went home and told my mom I wanted to play with my best friend.
“Then call her,” my mom said.
“But I can’t,” I whined. “Can’t you call for me?”
My mom thinks the story is funny because I had no fear of speaking in front of hundreds of people but I didn’t have the nerve to call my best friend because I was afraid of a personal – not “professional” – rejection.
That story from fourth grade captures the essence of who I still am.
On Saturday, the Bishop of the Wheeling-Charleston Diocese was coming to my office to conduct a ceremony. I didn’t sweat it. I knew the staff was up to the challenge and that I would have no problems greeting him and speaking to whoever gathered. And I didn’t.
My worries came later: after all the priests, religious personnel and supporters had left, my day was far from over. And I was much less confident facing my next challenge.
It involved dance moms and dance pictures.
While all the other mothers hovered over their daughters getting them ready for photos Kendall applied her makeup and changed costumes as needed. She knew I was much more likely to mess something up than to actually be helpful. So I simply sat by myself in a chair like a wallflower at a school dance. While the other mothers discussed the makeup and costumes and the performances, I felt completely invisible. No one talked to me because I wasn’t part of their group. I never join them in the waiting room during classes. While they spend that time discussing daughters’ dances and progress, I sit in my car trying to catch up on work or my to-do list. Because that’s where I feel safe.
I have nothing against these women. But while I am completely confident in fighting for a cause, speaking in public or asking for money, I have no confidence breaking into a group that has already formed and has expressed no interest in getting to know me. Which means I am often alone in a crowd.
And I am o.k. with that . Because even though my parents never taught me that I don’t have to overcome all of my insecurities or imperfections, I’ve had another great teacher called experience.
And that great teacher has also taught me that I will never be able to anticipate all of the problems my children will face or the struggles they will endure. It has taught me that they will probably blame me for not doing exactly what they needed or saying the right thing. But most of all, it has taught me that they will someday appreciate that I am just as human and prone to mistakes as they are.
And accepting those imperfections in ourselves and in those we love is what being a family is all about.