Amazing how such an ordinary memory from childhood has lasted so long.
I must have been about eight. The assignment from our teacher was simple enough: draw a bird.
My striving, type-A tendencies were already deeply ingrained by second grade. Sitting at our dining room table with a blank sheet of paper, a pencil, and absolutely no idea how to get the picture in my head onto the paper left me with a sinking feeling in my stomach and close to tears.
My mom, of course, had no awareness of the turmoil going on inside me as she emptied the dishwasher and went about making dinner. At some point, she must have noticed my eyes welling up with tears.
I am forever grateful for the way she handled the next few moments.
Without saying a word, she grabbed a chair and slid it right next to mine. Now we were both looking at the paper, together. She gently put her arm around my shoulder and smiled, asking what the assignment was. I let go of my emotions and cried, “To draw a bird.”
“Oh! Well, sweetheart! It’s your lucky day!” she proclaimed confidently.
I looked at her, confused, as she playfully kept on: “Darling, you know, Mama’s name is Robin! Don’t you think that means I learned how to draw a cute little bird at a very early age?”
The relief I felt in that moment is still fresh today as I type this. I have won the jackpot of mothers, I thought. Everything is going to be ok. This woman is confident in her ability to draw a bird.
My mom then proceed to draw the cartoon-ish bird in a profile, adding a wing and cute feathers up top above its head. Then, she put her hand over my hand and guided me.
A hand over my hand; a chair side-by-side.
Childhood may have passed and adulthood has certainly set in, but my mom’s gentle, confident example reminds me: When I’m faced with learning a new skill, or taking a step of faith, I cannot begin to express the confidence it instills in me when I don’t have to take the first step alone.