His mouth opened, but no words came out. He squeezed his eyes shut in concentration and tried again.
Finally, a few broken words found their way to his lips, but they were unintelligible.
My heart broke for my boy. I knew he struggled with a stutter, but never had I seen it so debilitating. He was supposed to be doing door-to-door fundraising sales for cub scouts, but it was clear he couldn’t. We were only at the first house, speaking with our first customer, and he couldn’t say one single word.
I felt the tears well up as we left our neighbor’s porch. I had just decided we were going to head home, not worry about this nonsense, and simply write the opt-out check when my son excitedly handed me the fundraising brochures, announced he needed his hands free in order to fix his “bumpy speech,” and skipped off to the next house, ready to try again.
He was unfazed by his failure at house #1.
I followed reluctantly, still blinking back tears and trying to figure out how to tell him we weren’t going to do this anymore, but I didn’t have it in me to temper his enthusiasm. So I trudged on, still ready to pull the plug the minute I thought my boy might get flustered, disappointed, or dejected.
But he didn’t.
That night we went from house to house to house. At some doorways the words came easily, while at others they were more elusive. But at all of them, the homeowners waited kindly and patiently as a little boy in a cub scout uniform made his sales pitch. And while some politely declined, others chose to buy.
And at the end of the night, that boy of mine – the one I so desperately wanted to simply quit and go home to spare him the painful struggle and humiliation – ran excitedly up to his daddy to tell him how much progess he’d made toward his sales goal. He was proud. Proud of his work, his persistence, his success.
Pride he never would have felt and success he never would have had if I’d had my way and just written that opt-out check after the first humiliating house.
I don’t know that I’d ever been more proud of my baby.
And more ashamed of myself.
When I was saying I don’t want you to hurt, I was really saying I don’t want you to try.
When I was saying I want to protect you, I was really saying I don’t think you can.
The hardest thing we will ever do as parents is step aside and give them the opportunity to fail. Because if we don’t give them the opportunity to fail, we’re also robbing them of the opportunity to succeed.
We’re holding them back.
And I know, at least for me, I don’t want anyone holding my son back, telling him he can’t, or taking away his opportunities.
Least of all his mother.