Exposing Myself

*Note from the editor: This week… we’re happy to have Jeff back from Out With the Kids! You can also find him on Twitter @OWTK. Jeff speaks to us about getting over our fears and being an example to our kids. What are some of your fears that you can see manifesting in your child?

My 7-year-old daughter is wildly talented. For reals. I say this not as a casting agent, but also not as her biased father. She, like most young ladies I reckon, prances about the house singing, posturing, and acting our scenes from The Wizard of Oz, Seussical, and other productions running only in the space beneath her unkempt brown hair.

She’s got that crazy skill that allows her to become other characters – real or imagined. During these stints as the Wicked Witch, Gertrude McFuzz, or a kingdom’s humble servant boy, I don’t see my girl. I see whomever she wants me to see. It’s way freaky. It’s also some kind of brilliant.

Unfortunately, the world (as it exists outside my home) may never have the privilege of experiencing any of the above. The mere mention of a ‘Theater Basics’ or some such class at our local YMCA is enough to send her system into shock. Forget actual instruction at a place like the Arden Theater in Philadelphia. You’d think handling the brochure would cause her pants to catch fire the way she flees.

Words will not help me convince her to step out onto that theatrical ledge. Her fears will never be wholly placated with fatherly reassurances. I’ve gotta lead by example, and cross fingers that I’ll inspire her – at some point – to break down a self-constructed wall or two. Leading by example is, um, easier said than done.

Before last weekend, I’d spoken into a microphone exactly two times. Once was as a fresh-faced 23-year-old, at my employer’s company award banquet. I’d won something, I think, and needed to say a few words. The other was two years ago in Kansas City. I was asked to introduce Recess Monkey – a most excellent kindie (kid’s + indie) band – at Jiggle Jam, the nation’s largest and most awesomest family music festival. In front of thousands, and with my girls in my arms, I botched the sponsor’s name and bumbled a Neil Young quote from The Last Waltz, before turning it over to my children to scream the band’s name. Then I made a beeline for the bathroom to change my underwear.

In Brooklyn last Saturday, I was asked to moderate a panel discussion on social networking and fan development at Kindiefest, the nation’s only family music conference. In front of two hundred or so artists, press people and other interested parties, I stepped up to a microphone and…didn’t make an ass of myself. In fact, I think I was sorta funny. Whether they were blowing smoke or not, I was told by many that I was a natural. A star is born!

While standing on stage mingling with the panelists before the 1-hour discussion began, I felt almost no butterflies – a fact that surprised and pleased equally. When I returned home, I excitedly told both of my girls that I’d overcome my trepidations and did a bang-up job speaking in front of a room full of people. Hugs all around!

It took thirty-five years for me to be able to say that I’ve beaten down a deep, dark fear. Here’s to hoping my oldest gal gets to proclaim the end of her most severe anxieties far sooner.


  1. Kelly says:

    I actually suffer from anxiety. That would make a whole series of posts… but you would never really know. I work hard to be an example of confidence and optimism for my children and just like you… I can only hope that it will rub off on them!