When it’s not about you at all…..

PictureThe Friday before last was the Annual 5th Grade Talent Show at the boys’ school.  There is a lot of hype surrounding this event – over the years, school tradition has elevated talent show time to one of the Premier end-of-year events.  Since we are currently experiencing 5th grade with our oldest child, I have never actually attended this phenomenon, and am therefore a rookie.

At least, I was until that Friday.

The initiation into the world of 5th Grade’s Got Talent began a few weeks ago.  Luke came home, informed me of his burning desire to participate (thus making me smile and experience a happy dance of the heart), then announced our need to get to work on his act immediately, as try-outs were the next day (which dimmed my smile somewhat and slowed the dance considerably).  Seriously?

Why?  Why?  Why are my children incapable of timely notice for any event in which they are involved?  Why does no one listen or communicate until the last minute?  Why, just once, can’t we pretend to be organized instead of acting like headless chickens?  When I expressed my annoyance with this to Luke, his reaction was to fling his arms wide, exclaiming, “What can I say, Mom?  I’m a procrastinator!”

I blame his father.

Before you judge me for my irritation, let me explain to you the scope of his idea.  His vision stemmed from a funny conversation we had the week before at dinner.  And from the fact that I am his mother and view life through the lens of a musical (reference Life’s A Dance).  It was “so simple”.  All we had to do was create a parody of Jason Derulo’s song, “Talk Dirty to Me” – reworking the lyrics, choreographing a dance and putting together a costume; all culminating in a clever and funny rendition of a new song, “Talk Nerdy to Me”.

Starting at 4pm.

To be done, polished and audition-ready for school the next day.

In spite of dinner, homework and soccer practice.

While waiting on Gregg to get home with a second load of dirt to haul in and dump in our newly-constructed raised garden…..and then put the remaining plants in it….before dark.

No problem.

Because that saying…..you know, the one people hang on clever little signs in their office cubicle to tell everyone that “Lack of prior planning on your part does not constitute an emergency on my part”, thus letting the world know they require notice for any project or situation…..yeah, that rule in no way applies to parenthood. Everything involving children constitutes an urgent situation on Mom’s part.

Every.  Single. Thing.

Thank goodness for YouTube and iTunes – it had the karaoke version of the song,  Score!

So, with dinner cooking, a carpool going and a daddy not quite home for gardening, we pulled out math, science and social studies notebooks and Luke started making lists of every 5th grade fact he’s learned this year. Brainstorming at it’s finest, folks.

I booted up the laptop and got to Googling.  I’m going to do you a solid, here.  Because I love you all, I’m taking one for the team and saving you some pain.  Do not, under any circumstances, look up the lyrics to this song. Or watch the video.  It’s time and brain space I can’t get back.  And the lyrics (especially the uncensored version) defy description.

This from a Beastie Boys fan.

Even so, and in spite of my constant stopping to pause or slap my hands over young ears making their way into the kitchen as I tried to get the song’s flow in my head, Luke and I managed to bang out some pretty clever lyrics.

nerd Luke
He figured out a basic costume and some dance moves, made it into the show, and spent the next week or two practicing and polishing his act.

When the actual date and time for performance came, I was a total basket case.  Seeing how nervous he was at lunch (he didn’t eat all his food – I cannot think of the last time that happened) sent me into the nausea level of anxiety.  How did my mom handle all my years of shows and performances?  It’s insane how nervous you can get for your kid!!

Finally, it was show time.  Our whole family came.  The cafeteria filled with students, staff and family members => an audience of close to 800.  Yeah….try that on for size as 11 year old kids who have to stand in front of a crowd that size and find the guts to strut their stuff.  Luke’s turn was at about the halfway point of the show.  And strut his stuff he did.  He killed it!  I mean, totally killed it.  From the moment he walked out onto the stage, in full nerd character, he owned that room and everyone in it.  He remembered all the lyrics, he projected and he danced his adorable little rear end off in the funniest “nerd” hip hop moves I have ever seen.  Adults and children alike were screaming with laughter, cheering him on and clapping wildly throughout and at the conclusion of the performance.  My face about split in two with the size of my smile. Gregg was in total awe, unable to believe the courage and swagger of his son.  His grandparents and aunts were ecstatic. Drew was hopping in his seat, calling “That’s my brother!”.  And Emry……well, our little bug was having a bit of an identity crisis.  She clapped for her brother, maybe not with full enthusiasm, but she did applaud him. Then, she sank into a pouty melancholy for the remainder of the show, her expression darkening with every act that followed (especially the girls).

Trying to leave the school afterwards was like trying to exit an arena with a rock star.  Luke was surrounded by kids asking him to show them the “nerdy dance” or breaking into their own rendition of it. His buddies were clapping him on the back and teachers doled out high fives.  We took pictures and gave hugs.  And a certain curly-haired little cutie did cartwheels until she could hardly stand upright…..to no avail.  The star of the hour remained her oldest brother.  Hmm…..

We (finally) made it to the car, loaded up and headed home.  The boys and I were rehashing the various feats as Emry perused a catalogue with studied indifference (I am not even kidding – it was an Oscar-worthy affectation.  She was fully peeved).  Every once in a while, when we spoke of one of the girls’ song or dance numbers, she would pause and toss out, “I’m prettier than her”, then go back to casually flipping magazine pages.  We chose not to react.  Finally, when Luke was talking to me about one of the emcee’s, he described her as “the one in the blue dress with the pretty hair”.  That was the proverbial last straw for our little prima donna.  Her head snapped up, she slammed her reading material closed, and with eyes flashing she announced, “Let me just say that I am cuter than all of them!”

The hair compliment not aimed at her just pushed her right over the edge.  She could take no more.

I bit my lip, torn between wanting to laugh and wondering whether to chastise her.  Luke looked at me, eyebrows raised.  Drew stared at her in shock, unable to process this level of sassiness (even though he tells everyone he knows that his sister is the sassiest girl ever born).

I gazed at her in the rear view mirror, seeing the hurt and confusion in her little face, the tender heart hidden under the cheeky words.  I thought about the fact that while, yes, we are learning and working on humility and an ability to let others shine….she is only four years old.  And much of her identity is wrapped up in how others speak to and about her – often this is in the form of applause and attention to her dancing/singing/cartwheeling self, her big brown eyes and long lashes, her amazing long and curly hair.  She is still small enough to garner lots of words of affirmation and praise for simple things.  And she adores her brothers, who constantly tell her what a cutie she is….especially Luke.  She just couldn’t handle any more of his (and all of our) attention to be elsewhere.

She’ll have to learn how to do so.  Lest you think we let her ego run unchecked, know that we rein her in with regularity, and will continue to do so as she grows.  This will be a lot less cute at fourteen, we know.

But it’s a lifelong lesson.  I can openly admit to you, I still have days where I battle this.  If you’re honest, as you roll your eyes at my admission, you probably need to acknowledge a bit of the same.

It’s hard, sometimes, to sit back and watch as what feels like the rest of the world gets their turn, reaps their reward, has their 15 minutes of fame….all while we trudge along, feeling unrecognized or unsatisfied or unfulfilled.  Our inner child waves her arms and stomps her feet, crying out, “What about me?”

We know, just know, that we could do as well or better, if only given the spotlight and a chance to shine.

Waiting is never the fun part.

The phrase “do your time” is never one we want to hear.  Nor is “it’s not your turn this time”.

Yet, like it or not, want to or not….it’s part of life.  Our experiences, our disappointments, our challenges and moments out of the sun prepare us just as much as the accolades, attention and limelight for what it is we are meant to accomplish in this lifetime.  Our destiny rarely looks like we think it should or imagined it would.  Yet, if we are patient and open-minded, listening to the still small voice and answered prayers (as well as the unanswered ones), we may just find a mind-blowing life path and storybook ending that surpasses all we could have ever hoped for or envisioned for ourselves.

What a magnificent day it is, when we finally get that picture.

What an even better day it is when we successfully pass it on.

Solidarity sisters.  Eventually, we all get our turn.

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