My oldest loves science (experimenting is common occurrence in our home). So, when he came home with a note from school about the Science Fair, I encouraged him to participate.
We discussed some of our favorite experiments and decided we would test different objects to see if they would float. A simple idea, which I thought was appropriate for his age level.
When it was time to put together the presentation board, I stepped back and let my son do a good portion of the work. I did write some of the words, but honestly, my handwriting is pretty much at a Kindergarten level, so nobody would notice.
There was no doubt the board was created by a five-year-old, and I was proud of my son for doing so much on his own. Yet, as the Science Fair night drew near, I found myself getting more and more anxious. I would look at his board, and then picture some of the other presentations, and wonder, is this good enough? I had visions of complicated robotics and elaborate models, with smiling parents looking on at their little wunderkinds.
Would the other parents think I dropped the ball? Would the other students find his project lame?
A part of me wanted to scrap the whole thing, to find another project, or not even go at all. I was so worried about being judged, about by son not being good enough -- about me not being good enough -- that I was ready to call it quits.
But, I knew I couldn't do that to my son. The Science Fair was important to him, and I couldn't let my own fears ruin this experience.
The evening of the event, we gathered up the materials and headed to the school. The halls were packed with people, which didn't do much to ease my anxiety. As we waited to check in, I still wondered if my son's project was good enough.
We found a spot to set up near a few of my son's classmates. They were all excited and enjoyed checking out one another's projects. While, some of them were admittedly, a bit more sophisticated, none were over the top and all were age appropriate. No master robotics here.
Still, the Science Fair was open to all students, and some of the older kids impressed me with their creativity and ingenuity. I wasn't expecting my son's project to get much love.
As the students walked around, voting for projects for the students' choice winners, I was surprised to see several stop at our table. A few asked me for the number my son was assigned at registration so they could cast their vote for his project, and I was embarrassed to not know it off hand. I didn't think to remember it, or write it down, because I didn't think anyone would want to vote for us. I even had to text my husband, who was with my son in the bathroom, to get the number.
I realized right then how wrong I was for doubting my son, and for doubting myself.
When, I stopped worrying about what others thought, I was able to see my son. I was able to see his wonderful intelligence and curiosity.
And, as it turns, out the judges saw something special in my son as well. They awarded his project fourth place out of the entire elementary school and presented him with a solar-powered rover car.
Our kids are capable of greatness, we just need to believe in them, and in ourselves.