How to Be Legendary

Ben rocking out in the kitchen

Ben rocking out in the kitchen

Ben was in a talent show at the local toy store last year.

When I asked him what he’d like to do, he said he’d like to perform one of his songs. His “songs” at the time were a mashup of jewish folk tunes and heavy metal. The likes of which this world might never have seen before!

He practiced outside the toy store with me, “Hine ma tov uma-na-im… (and now insert growly, deep, heavy metal voice) shevet achim gam yavat…”

It was, in short, awesome.

Ben was so excited to get on stage when we entered the store that he insisted on MC’ing the whole thing and asked if he could perform first. As I sat in the audience with my iphone video all ready to go, I saw the surprise in his eyes. It was fear but it was also surprise at how scared he actually was. He didn’t expect this at all! As a result of the sheer, unexpected terror, nothing came out of his mouth.

You can do it! all of us called out. The entire room of kids cheered him on. But he crumpled, literally, and fell to the ground. I can’t do it! he shouted from the floor.

Another kid went instead and did a fart song by putting her hand inside her armpit. (Super impressive I might add) Then a boy who was great at yo-yo did his thing.

Ben was ready to try again. I readied my camera, said a little prayer and all of us cheered again, but he was terrified and ran off the stage.

“Try starting with your back to us!” I encouraged, and that seemed to help. He started his song with his back to the audience and eventually mustered up the courage to turn around. He improvised a song, a hilarious mix of metal and rap and jewishness, and we all cheered when it was over.

He was a bit mortified by the whole thing.

But here’s what I want to share with you: Ben is now LEGENDARY at Mr. Mopp’s toy store in Berkeley. Every time we go in there, the owner says, “Ben! We loved your song at the talent show! You have a lot of fans here.” Other employees will literally come out of the back and gather around. “Ben is here! Yeah, the one from the talent show!”

They love him.

And my guess is that they love him because he was brave.
They love him because he was human.
He was afraid and he went for it anyway.

He sang a song, his song. And even though he couldn’t quite look anyone in the eyes when he did it, he did it anyway.

Ben once asked me what a legend was. I told him it was someone that people talked about for many years after they were gone, even hundreds of years, because they were so extraordinary. “Like Jesus?” he asked. “Yes. Like Jesus. And Miles Davis.”

“I want to be a legend,” he told me.

I think he’s well on his way. And he is teaching me that being brave + vulnerable is key. The crowd loves you all the more for it.




  1. Posted May 30, 2013 at 8:42 pm | Permalink

    this made me weepy.

    rock on Ben!

    (and as a parent of children who are raised jewish but have family that celebrates Christmas and a mom that doesn’t observe much — it comforts me that your son sings jewish folk songs and asks about Jesus and you compare him to Miles Davis. thank goodness we aren’t the only ones! ?

  2. Posted May 30, 2013 at 8:56 pm | Permalink

    Ben…Legend… boy of great courage and soul!!!! This moved me to tears in the most tender way Andrea…what an incredible mom you are. oxo Ask Ben if I might have his autograph…I would be honored to have it and treasure it always as a reminder to always work on my legend legacy. ? <3

  3. Posted May 30, 2013 at 9:24 pm | Permalink

    Love that story and love that kid.
    Every time you share stories about ben’s nature, I start to imagine the wonderful adventures he’ll have. And it makes my heart smile.

    Thanks for sharing your beautiful family with us.

    I sure needed that heart-smile today!

  4. Cheryl
    Posted May 30, 2013 at 9:31 pm | Permalink

    Way to step into the arena and “dare greatly!”

  5. Danielle Davies
    Posted May 30, 2013 at 9:48 pm | Permalink

    I just love this post. Thanks so much for sharing. I’m smiling—hugely—and thinking about the things our kids show us, being brave huge among them. Fantastic. Thanks again!

  6. Honey
    Posted May 30, 2013 at 10:21 pm | Permalink

    Gives new meaning to Brave on the Rock(s)! I was just watching Bradley Cooper on Inside the Actor’s Studio and it was refreshing to see raw emotion that pulls the audience in. We’re all scared! Let’s stop hiding. Go Ben!!

  7. Posted May 30, 2013 at 11:01 pm | Permalink

    What a teacher he is – and you too.
    He was afraid, but did it anyway. Started and stopped. Said how he was feeling. You encouraged him. He figured out a way to get it done. And now he is honored for his bravery and vulnerability.
    May we all learn to be as brave as Ben. And may we all be legendary!

  8. Posted May 30, 2013 at 11:25 pm | Permalink

    AH! I loved reading this, what a great story. ? I can only imagine the gloriousness. Glad you could keep encouraging him too when he got stage fright – I think it’s so easy to tell people (especially kids) it’s ok to just hide when the nerves kick in. Of course it is – but sometimes it’s nice to get a little supportive push. ?

  9. Rene
    Posted May 31, 2013 at 3:09 am | Permalink

    I LOVE this post. I don’t usu comment, but needed to!! The way you wrote this…such a surprise ending that it was about being brave and usu we think of that in terms of adults and being vulnerable and authentic, but I loved that you found this situation with Ben.
    Thanks for sharing your world.

  10. Posted May 31, 2013 at 1:53 pm | Permalink

    YES Ben! And thank you, Andrea! Being brave and vulnerable makes us all legendary.
    Thank you,

  11. Posted May 31, 2013 at 1:56 pm | Permalink

    How precious! Three cheers for being brave.

  12. Liz
    Posted May 31, 2013 at 1:57 pm | Permalink

    Ben is an inspiration. Not just to be brave and vulnerable – but also to find your own voice. I used Ben as my role model yesterday when I needed a little courage of my own!

  13. Julie
    Posted May 31, 2013 at 1:58 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for this one, Jen! A great story. Beautifully told. Way to go, Ben. You did it!

  14. Marilee Pittman
    Posted May 31, 2013 at 2:01 pm | Permalink

    Andrea, I think you have a new calling . To write children’s stories. This one was so awesome, such a wonderful lesson in being brave, walking through our fears, and Ben is such a wonderful hero.

  15. Amanda
    Posted May 31, 2013 at 2:10 pm | Permalink

    Profound- thank you SO much for sharing.

  16. Posted May 31, 2013 at 2:19 pm | Permalink

    What a gorgeous post, Andrea. The vision of Ben doing Jewish rocker rap is priceless. You made my day. ?

  17. Posted May 31, 2013 at 2:23 pm | Permalink

    this makes me so happy – ben is just like the rest of us; full of desire, scared and brave, big-hearted…xxx

  18. Posted May 31, 2013 at 2:35 pm | Permalink

    This brought tears to my eyes — and I am inspired to be brave. ? Thank you so much for sharing this story!

  19. Posted May 31, 2013 at 2:35 pm | Permalink

    Andrea, I received this one! The motto of my line of cards is Be Bold. Ben the Bold! Go Ben. We have fond memories of Mr. Mopps toy store. This story is me all over again!

  20. Lisa
    Posted May 31, 2013 at 3:02 pm | Permalink

    What a fabulous story!! I feel more brave just reading it! Thanks for sharing! ?

  21. Lynne
    Posted May 31, 2013 at 3:21 pm | Permalink

    Reading this with gentle tears in my eyes and a smile on my face. Andrea, you have such an amazing way of sharing. You are all heart and soul and then you top it off with such a powerful image. Just awesome!!!! Makes me wanna be brave!

  22. Posted May 31, 2013 at 3:22 pm | Permalink

    Andrea, I LOVE this! Such a brave little guy!

    I wanted to let you know how much you’ve inspired me. Because of you (and Mondo Beyondo), I was brave enough to start my own photography business (now people need to be brave enough to hire me!), but it led me to this moment that I feel like has changed my life forever.

    Thank you. Hooray for bravery!

  23. Carole
    Posted May 31, 2013 at 3:45 pm | Permalink

    Wonderful story, WONDERFUL boy!!! Absolutely fantastic – made my day to read this!

  24. Posted May 31, 2013 at 3:46 pm | Permalink

    This made me smile so much! What a great reminder that we can still be legendary even if we have a rocky start. Being brave rocks!

  25. elsa
    Posted May 31, 2013 at 4:28 pm | Permalink

    YAY Ben!!! wish I could have been there ~ Ben sounds like an awesome kid!

  26. Kim Bajorek
    Posted May 31, 2013 at 4:30 pm | Permalink

    This made me tear up. What a beautiful story and perfect message. Thank you!

  27. Shea
    Posted May 31, 2013 at 4:30 pm | Permalink

    Hi Andrea,

    Not only was Ben brave (“I can’t do it!”), but you were also a super awesome mama. (“You CAN do it!”)

    Very sweet.


  28. Toni McLellan
    Posted May 31, 2013 at 4:32 pm | Permalink

    This made my day.

  29. Jamie Moore
    Posted May 31, 2013 at 4:55 pm | Permalink

    Yes! As the saying goes, “Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgement that something else is more important than the fear.” Fear is a necessary ingredient of bravery.

  30. Posted May 31, 2013 at 5:17 pm | Permalink

    Andrea, this has made my morning – really, my whole day! Your gentle encouragement – and Ben’s brave, sweet, little bit folk and a little bit rock and roll self. I’m with Kathleen, I need an autograph to help remind me of my own brave self.

  31. Posted May 31, 2013 at 7:11 pm | Permalink

    Ben is just so awesome.

  32. Beth
    Posted May 31, 2013 at 8:19 pm | Permalink

    This is so great. I hope to see Ben perform one day! And way to be a mom who could hold the space for him to try, leave and try again. Thanks so much for sharing.

  33. Heather
    Posted May 31, 2013 at 9:17 pm | Permalink

    You’re a fantastic mum with a fantastic boy!

  34. Kristen Adams
    Posted May 31, 2013 at 10:32 pm | Permalink

    Once again your post has brought me to my knees… and I so appreciate it. I can more then identify with a lot of our story and journey right now, and Ben has given me inspiration.

    I’m up rooting my whole life from my beautiful city of Denver, CO which I feel so much a part of on so many levels… and moving to Dallas, Texas. for Grad school, and my dream in a career I love and will have my own practice after. But, I’m leaving 15 years of friends, and I am by myself. I have no significant other, or children, all this I thought I would have by this point. And, I want to throw myself on the floor and scream, ‘”I can’t do this alone anymore!” But, I’m not alone… I have a great cloud of witnesses… Thank you for remaining me!

  35. Posted June 1, 2013 at 1:01 am | Permalink

    Such a wonderful story, in so many ways… I love how he took it in baby steps, how he kept trying, how he found enough courage to start with his back to the audience (great idea, mom!) and finally turned around to face the fear, and how he received the rewards of his bravery long after the event was over! Thank you for the inspiration <3

  36. Posted June 2, 2013 at 4:53 am | Permalink

    Ben is AWESOMESAUCE! What a cool dude. What a brave soul!

  37. Posted June 2, 2013 at 10:08 am | Permalink

    made me cry. in a good way. plinky plink eyes.

  38. Rachel
    Posted June 3, 2013 at 3:02 pm | Permalink

    I love this story. I got teary at the point where you explained *why* they loved him. Lovely! Thank you.

  39. Sarah Ford
    Posted June 4, 2013 at 3:26 pm | Permalink

    I love this story – indeed, what a legend. Very similar thing happened at a local talent show. A 5-6 year old boy wanted to sing Michael Jackson’s ‘Ben’ and had obviously been practising for ages. He had to start over a couple of times as he completely forgot the words. The fact that he started again and again just made me want to hug him. The audience were willing him along and helping him by singing along until he got his ‘groove’ back and then let him finish – he got the biggest cheer of the evening!

  40. Amy Putkonen
    Posted July 31, 2013 at 10:43 am | Permalink

    HI Andrea,

    I am new here. Well, actually, I have seen your work before but new here at your blog. This is a great story. I love the innocence of Ben. We are all that innocent, aren’t we? We just get better at masking it as we get older. Wouldn’t want to look silly! lol…

  41. Posted December 6, 2013 at 1:14 am | Permalink

    I laughed so hard when you spelled out his lyrics.

    This is adorable.

  42. Liz Black
    Posted April 18, 2018 at 12:05 pm | Permalink

    I love that we can look to the little ones for lessons on just about anything…well anything important in life

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