Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Social Caterpillars

My youngest sister e-mailed us a link to enter the Harry Potter essay contest--the grand prize of which is a package including a trip to New York and London and a guest spot on the Today Show. Son-Two is a Potter Fan from way back and even the rushing hormones and the fact that he's recently started needing to shave have not curbed that enthusiasm. At least at home. He is torn though about entering the contest--for several reasons. I don't think it's particularly "cool" (or whatever word is the new "cool") for a guy his age (a guy who's a guy and no longer a "boy") to like, let alone passionately enjoy Harry Potter. For that and a hundred other reasons, the thought of the Today Show appearance is terrifying to him. So he's afraid to enter the contest not because he's afraid he won't win because he's afraid he will. It's an interesting paradox--he's carrying around supreme confidence in his writing ability (so sure he'll win that he's afraid to enter because he's not sure he wants to win), but not enough confidence in his social skills and himself in general to say, to his friends and the Today Show audience, "I still like Harry Potter--get over it."

This is an aspect of his personality I identify all too readily with. I've never been a social butterfly--I was stuck in the larval stage for the longest time and, ironically, it was my kids who pushed me into acquiring any adult social skills at all. It was either learn to make small talk with other Moms and Dads or move us all to a cave somewhere and raise a family of hermits. My grandmother used to call me "a little backward" which was her word for shy--imagine my delight when I discovered that in some regions of our state, it means a little, um, slow. Either way--slow, shy, backward--I got it in spades. I still squirm at the thought of "public" appearances--anything from going into an unfamiliar grocery store, to attending a concert at the school, to picking up one of the kids at a friend's house where the friend's parent or parents may want to chat. (Chat, you'll notice, is a four-letter word.) I just try to hide the fear better and work around it more.

Seeing this trait in Son-Two (or any of Them for that matter) is difficult because I feel his pain, so I want to sympathize, but I also want to "help" him overcome it by taking him by the shoulders and saying, "Don't you get it? You'll miss out on so much!" It's hard when I still practice so much less than I preach--they all know I'd hide under the bed eighty-percent of the time if I had the option.

In fact, when he told me his phobia about appearing on national television, I said, "I fully understand your fear--that's why, if you win, your aunt will be your companion on those planes to New York and London."

Don't you get it? You'll miss out on so much!

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