Fear of Singing

We woke up. The kids found their Easter Baskets, and hunted for eggs. Riley and I were to be at the church by 9:00 to rehearse for the 11:00 service. At about 8:30 she started complaining her stomach hurt. She had been sick with a flu bug for a few days and I knew she meant it when she said she didn’t feel well. But she wanted to go. She wanted to sing! She wanted to do her solo. So we went.

Upon walking into the sanctuary, she saw the other kids, and froze like an animal being led to the slaughter(pre-Temple Grandin). She’d forgotten about the kids. Grown ups she feels safe with. Most adults she comes in contact with are loving and supportive. With kids, you just never know, and she didn’t know these kids well. We missed some rehearsals because she was sick. Therefore, she’d only ever rehearsed the solo with the children’s choir director, not the whole group. Things were different, and that is hard for her.

Riley got up on the stage and back down again about five times during rehearsal. She went for a walk with Betse the children’s choir director, who coached her on creating a safe space for herself. Betse told her she didn’t need to do the solo, everyone would still love her just as much, no matter what. One time Riley got up on stage and looked like she was doing well. She was engaged! But no, she no longer wanted the solo.

But this girl had claimed that solo! No one had even suggested it. She just knew it was hers and asked for it. I hated for her not to do it. I didn’t want her to regret it or be disappointed in herself.

Kathleen the director looked around, trying to figure out who would do it.

Mommy mode kicked in.

“I’ll do it,” I said.

I thought if we did it together it might work. Riley was thrilled. She stood on stage holding my hand, and we rehearsed some more. My heart soared for her!

Then she looked at the other kids.

And began to fret.

She whispered, “What if they think I’m a baby and need my mom up here with me?

In her sweet little Easter dress, she started doing the silent jumping, ramping up into meltdown mode.

Meanwhile, time was ticking away. I knew the solo better then anyone from practicing with Riley. The choir was counting on us.

This might be a good time to reiterate my absolute fear of singing in public. I’ve been in choirs here and there, my whole life, always hiding in the background. Support staff. I’m comfortable there, where other stronger singers hit the cues and the high notes, and no one notices if my voice cracks. Singing one on one with Riley was going to be a stretch for me. Way out of my comfort zone, but I’d do it for her.

Rehearsal went on and Riley became more and more upset. More adamant about not doing the solo, or a duet. During a bathroom break, I told her, “Riley, I’ve never sung by myself before, and I’m nervous, so I really need your support. Can you just stand up there with me?” She said she would, and honestly when push came to shove I thought she’d join in.

Time was up.

Todd and Seth and Jingle came in and sat down. As the service started, I alternated between wanting to faint, and having a straight talk with myself. Who cares if you screw up? This is about teaching your daughter by example. How can you expect her to face her fears if you aren’t willing to do so yourself?

During the service, announcements were made and there was a nod to the choir and a mention of a solo being performed by “Michelle O’Neil.” Todd did a cartoon-ish double take. Eyes wide. I averted my eyes and couldn’t look at him the rest of the time. He thought maybe they messed up and really meant Riley. He knew I would not have volunteered for a solo.

Right about this time, I became aware of feeling majorly duped. On a metaphysical level it was as if Riley’s soul and Kathleen’s (the music director who knows my fear) were colluding to get me over a major block, using my love of Riley to do it. I also became aware of feeling like I might pee my pants. Also, did it have to be the most crowded service of the year? Easter Sunday? C’mon! Things were snowballing out of control!

The song featuring “Riley’s” solo came right after a meditation in which Rev. Tony referred to all of us as being “the perfect child of God.”

Enough of this already.
You are a grown woman.

A mother.

Calm down, and sing like “the perfect child of God” you are.

And then we were up.
And then I was up.
Riley stood beside me, but it was not a duet.
She patted my arm, and smiled.
She was so proud.

She supported me.

And the mic didn’t come on for a few seconds. And I was shaky. And I don’t think I quite got the high note at first. But the second time I did.

At 41 years old, this is the first time I have ever done a solo in my life.

Riley beamed.

During the fast part she looked at the other kids and opted not to do the hand motions we’d practiced because they weren’t doing them. Annoying, but age appropriate, not wanting to be different.

Immediately after church her stomach ache was gone and she does not appear to feel the least bit disappointed in herself for not doing the solo she insisted was hers. 

The whole thing still feels a bit blurry.

I wouldn’t believe it myself if Todd hadn’t recorded the whole thing.

This is me being brave. This is me being a mother.

I’m scared to post it, but that’s why I need to post it.

Thank you for listening.


Lovingly yours,


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34 Responses to Fear of Singing

  1. Courtney says:

    That was the most beautiful post, the most beautiful solo, the most beautiful mother/daughter team I’ve ever seen.

    Happy Easter. Love to you, Riley, and the whole family.

  2. Michelle! How amazing and beautiful! I love how this came about – how you mentioned what seemed to be happening on a metaphysical level. I completely agree. Thanks for sharing such a wonderful experience! xoxo

  3. Lydia says:

    Michelle, you have a beautiful voice! This time, I’m proud of YOU! So proud!

  4. -e- says:

    Perhaps only you were singing, but the two of you were still in perfect harmony.

    Smiling up at you AND reaching out and squeezing your hand? This is a girl who knows how to nurture because she has been nurtured so well.

  5. One Mom says:

    Such an amazing lesson to teach your daughter. You were so brave, and she’s sure to remember this for a long, long time.


  6. Lovely post … I’m still teary after watching it. Seeing Riley reach up several times to give you what look like a reassuring pat as in, “you go ahead mom, I’m here style” turned on my tears even before the hand holding part. Well done!

  7. Niksmom says:

    I fully understand what that took for you to do! Wildly applauding your courage and grace. 🙂

  8. Kelli says:

    Brava! Brava! Let there be peace…LOVE YOU

  9. Linda says:

    Beautiful! It is amazing what we find ourselves capable of!!

  10. pixiemama says:

    Oh my God I love you & Riley.


  11. Susan Hendrickson says:

    What a beautiful lesson you taught Riley. She looked so supportive of you. You did a fabulous job and I am so proud of you! You rock!

  12. Amanda says:

    WHO’S the mama?!! 😀

  13. Amanda says:

    Happy Easter btw! X

  14. Carrie Link says:

    First had to run and get a third Kleenex, two wasn’t enough!

    You are my human, but that whole thing was angelic! LOVED seeing how tender Riley was towards you – she was so proud!

    Me, too.

  15. Sally says:

    Very touching.

  16. Wanda says:

    Congratulations! Love.

  17. Kim says:

    I would have fainted! Go Mama!!

  18. naomi says:

    You sang beautifully my friend! That took so much courage. Maybe Riley needed to you to pioneer that kind of risk before she could do it.

  19. amber says:

    This made me cry. (not your voice, your voice is beautiful. lol 🙂 But the LOVE! The brave spirit! The Grace! Oh, the love. Her pats on your arm…

    Happy Easter friend.
    Good job!!


  20. K Fuller Yuba City says:

    Riley is so lucky. Not only did you teach her bravery, but that sometimes you have to step in so that everyone isn’t disappointed.
    I love how you never let a teaching moment go by, even if it involves jumping off what seemed like a cliff. You sang beautifully. Watching Riley look up at you brought tears to my eyes.

  21. Mariellen Romer says:

    Mama and Riley did brilliantly. I think the Universe *was* colluding. Every one played their part so well.
    Happy Easter!

  22. Robin says:

    You made my day with this. You really really did. I love it all.

  23. rhemashope says:

    beautiful and brilliant. both of you. what a precious mother-daughter team. it’s so touching to see riley subtly cheering and encouraging you, touching your arm. amazing love.

  24. Kathy Sullivan says:

    I am humbled to have played a part in that oh so beautiful life lesson. To be able to watch the video and notice Riley being so so supportive of you was amazing. (I didn’t see that during the actual event). Thanks to Todd for recording it! Oh and by the way…I see more solo’s in your future young lady!

  25. Meg says:

    Wow. And you thought YOU were teaching HER! Amazing.

  26. goodfountain says:

    Wow. that was just so incredibly touching. And beautiful!

    Congratulations on conquering your fear!!

  27. Courtney says:

    26 responses and I’m the only one with puke green ….

  28. Penny says:

    Oh it was lovely and you are a wonderful singer. I love how Riley supported you. What wonderful lessons at Easter for us all. Thanks for sharing.

  29. Susie says:

    OMG Michelle! That was the BEST 4 minutes that I’ve had all day! I wanted to catch up with you and your blog and I have to shut down after only one post b/c you made me cry! What a fantastic experience for ALL of you(and all of us lucky enough to view it). Thank you so much for sharing!

  30. Kerry says:

    I knew I wouldn’t be the only one who cried watching that. Beautiful, amazing love personified.

  31. Bonnie says:

    That was truly beautiful. I loved her patting your arm. And I loved your singing!

  32. Bettse says:

    We are called by our Mama Bird instincts to not only love and protect, but teach by example. You are a great MAMA Bird. I see not only solos in your future, duets with Riley abound!!!
    Love to you both,

  33. Betty says:


  34. Jerri says:

    No accidents, as Ms. Link would say. Your life and Riley’s are bound in learning and lessons and love.

    Let there be peace.

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