I have spent years in playgrounds biting my tongue each time I hear parents holler, “Good climbing!” and “Nice swinging!” to their kids. Aren’t children supposed to climb and swing? A child should, at the very least, be able to perform those two basic playground functions. I want to tell these parents to save their congratulations for when their kids really do something good. Like empty the dishwasher without being asked. (Three years ago I may have said cure cancer, but my goals have dropped substantially. Sue me.)
While I still haven’t come around to parents who over-praise, I have warned to the “Nice try” school of thought. For years I didn’t understand why parents screamed it to kids who swung and missed at baseball games (of course he’s going to swing! everyone swings!) or kids who shot and didn’t quite get the ball in the hoop (what else are you meant to do with the ball other than shoot it?). In short, I always thought that everyone tries. Enough with the congratulating.
But this week Bennett took the stage in his school’s musical — Oliver! As I may have mentioned once or twice, I am something of a musical theater
aficionado geek. When he told me he was trying out, to avoid over-suggesting songs for his audition, I sealed my lips together as tightly as I could. I almost blacked out with effort (this reminded me of my Kegel effort craziness when pregnant. When I was driving, I trained myself to do ten kegels at stop signs and twenty at red lights. I almost blacked out once at a very long light somewhere on La Cienega Blvd. in Los Angeles.) When he got the part, I yearned to coach him (which may have been somewhat difficult given the sheer paucity of my musical ability) and I once locked myself in the bathroom when he was running lines with Efram, to avoid given him any advice (“Diction is the first rule of theater, my boy.”)
My God, on opening night, it took every ounce of willpower I could muster not to burst forth from my chair, channel Mama Rose, and scream: SING OUT LOUISE!
But frankly, on opening night I was more weepy that willful. You see, in March we pulled Bennett out of the school he’d been in since before kindergarten and moved him somewhere entirely new. As any parent will tell you, it takes a lot for a parent to move a kid out of school, and a hell of a lot to do it mid year. Despite having had an grueling and unsettling few months, he picked himself up and without any prompting at all from a certain potential stage mother, auditioned in front of kids he didn’t know and a music teacher who didn’t know him. And got the part.
Of course I was happy when he got the role. Of course I was thrilled to see his name in the program and his huge, grinning face on stage. But when he auditioned, I realized that sometimes trying really is everything. Of course test scores, grades, and victories of all sorts, make us proud, but when you see what your kids are made of, there’s not much that can make you prouder as a parent.
Now if only I could get him to empty the dishwasher without asking.