“We picked teams for volleyball in PE today,” she said. “Like always, I was the last one picked.”
Normally, I’d say something about “being a late bloomer” or maybe remind her to “be patient because everyone grows at their own rate.” Instead, I tried a lighter approach.
“Well, that’s what I call saving the best for last!”
“Seriously Mom, I can barely reach the net – let alone spike a ball over it!”
“You know, it doesn’t matter how you look on the outside. It’s what’s on the inside that counts.”
Emily sighed. “You always say that.” She picked some pink nail polish off her finger. “I just feel, you know, like nothing special.”.
A week later, Emily was discouraged again. This time we were at the mall.
“I don’t like it.” Emily stared in the department store mirror, shaking her head.
“I think it looks cute,” I said, tilting my head to the side.
“Mom, I’m not wearing ruffles or bows to my Christmas program.”
I couldn’t blame her. Most of her friends wore trendy clothes from the junior department, but Emily couldn’t fit into those sizes yet.
I glanced down at the shoes she had snatched from a display. “Oh Em, those heels look tough to walk in.”
“They’re fine.” She took a couple of wobbly steps. I exhaled. This girl would try anything to look taller.
The school year went on, Emily worked hard on her schoolwork. She was respectful to her teachers and kind to her classmates. Every now and then she still had bad days, but I did my best to encourage her.
“Em, you’re a good student and a great kid.” Emily rolled her eyes but I kept talking anyway. “You just need to be the best Emily you can be. You're going to accomplish great things.”
I know she heard me; I just wasn’t sure she believed me. Then one day, toward the end of the school year, Emily’s principal called.
“I’ve got some exciting news,” she said. “Emily was chosen to receive the Illinois Principal’s Association Student Leadership Award.”
“Okay?” I began, “I’m actually not familiar-”
“It’s a program our school participates in every year. All of the students vote for one boy and one girl based on behavior, strong character, leadership skills and academics.”
I couldn’t help but smile. “So, Emily’s classmates picked her?”
“Yes, they did. It was actually a landslide.”
I thanked the principal and hung up the phone. How about that? Emily’s classmates saw something in her she didn’t see in herself.
Later that day Emily dashed through the back door. “Did you hear, Mom? Did my principal call?”
“Yes, she did,” I said. “And I am so proud of you!”
Emily’s face beamed. It didn’t matter if she was the smallest kid in her class. On that day, she finally realized that her classmates looked up to her.