Prima came home from school the other day looking tentative, bewildered and slightly pleased.
She sat quietly as Secondo chirped about her first-grade day all the way home.
As they hung their backpacks and ate a snack, Prima told me at school they had done nominations for a class representative for student council.
“Oh?” I said, the distracted mom showing appropriate interest. “Did people vote? Or were they nominated?”
“Nominated,” she replied, pausing awhile. “I was nominated.”
“Really!?” I might have said too brightly.
“Yes, Mom,” she said, telling me who had done so. Per my typical MO, I extolled the virtues of the person who nominated her, emphasizing this small and significant act of kindness in what might turn out to be a disappointing childhood experience.
She agreed it was very nice.
“But, Mom.” Refocusing me, now. “I have to write and give a speech and then everyone votes on one boy and one girl to be on the student council,” her voice quivering ever so slightly when the words “write” and “speech” passed her lips.
These are difficult things for Prima.
“That’s OK!” I cheer-led. “I will help you. You talk and I’ll type it for you.”
But when we sat down at our desk, she locked down, tension bringing her full pink lips into a mash, her smooth brow furrowing. She was on the verge of tears as I suggested ways she might begin. “What about this…” I offered, suggesting some boring version of what I thought she might say.
“Well, how about…” I volleyed again.
“Moooommmm! NO.” Yowza. I took a deep breath and waited, brushing away my own irritation.
And she put together the single best campaign speech ever dictated. Like, for reals.
I’ll prove it.
It began with “I can use my ability to talk to the student council members about what fifth grade has to say and what they like. I think that everybody matters in this, not just one fifth-grader.”
It continued with, “If I become the representative, I will respect your ideas and tell them to the student council.”
And in the face of my repressed mamaworry, she gave me the clincher, “And I will always be myself.”
My heart stopped.
“That’s it,” she said, confident that she had expressed herself, the tension gone.
When I could talk without giving away that inside I was melting with pride and gushing with sappy and devoted love and appreciation for her indomitable spirit, I said, “Prima, that’s true. And it’s perfect.”
We practiced and practiced and when she headed out of my circle of love the next morning, she was a bit nervous, but ready.
I could not have been more proud of her than I was in the moment when she dictated the last line. Not even if she had won. Of course, I wanted that for her. Not just because she’s my kid, my piece of heart out roaming the world, my 6-pound 8-ounce baby girl, but mostly because there’s a lot this child struggles to achieve. But struggle she does. She fights. She perseveres. Without fail.
Here’s the thing: when she got in the car after school, she told me she hadn’t won.
I was still proud, and ready to point out all the good that came out of it.
And then she broke out into a huge smile, all pink cheeks and dancing almond eyes and shouted, “Just kidding! I GOT IT!”
And my heart started again.