Sunday, March 13, 2011

Stage Mom

Millie writes:

Hi, my name is Millie and I'm a stage mom.

I admit it. I've been encouraging my little dears to perform since 3-year-old Joy donned her first tutu. It's not because I want to live (or re-live) my personal glories through them, it's because they're so darned talented.

I was raised in a musical family, and I took a few turns at speech and theater in school. While I was merely pleasantly adequate at these endeavors, they did give me an appreciation for people who can perform with panache. It turns out that each of our kids is gifted in some area of the performing arts, and it's always given Lance and me a peculiar pleasure to encourage them to explore these areas as far as they care to take them.

Performing – whether it's dancing, acting, singing, playing an instrument or giving a speech – is as necessary as breathing to some people. For others, it's the act of making art – whether it's a poem, a painting or a song – that's important. 2/3 of our kids took high-intensity dance classes during their junior-high years, and the other two engaged in sports. This physical activity helped them all through that “awkward age” when it was so difficult to keep track of where their knees and elbows were at any given time, and the performances – whether recitals or games – taught them about taking themselves seriously.

Our musicians are self-taught, with a sprinkling of Community Center lessons for a summer or two. A couple of them have perfect pitch and a couple of them are naturals on their instruments, but they have learned on their own that it's the practice they put in that makes the difference between talented and good.

Have we insisted that they take up an instrument or an activity? No. However, if they express an interest, we're right there cheering them on – and we do insist they finish what they start. We will furnish a beginner with a good instrument – a “play” instrument insults both the music and the musician – but the rest is up to them.

Oh, but I must admit . . . if one of our kids has a part in a play, I will help them learn their lines. If one of them has a solo in an upcoming performance, I will beg them over and over to sing it for me. I'll talking composition with a budding painter, practice comedic timing with an after-dinner speaker and dissect the finer points of Buddy Rich's technique with a drummer. I will make that kindergarten practice reading “Fwosty the Snowman” aloud over and over until she's got it down perfectly, because – once she's stood up there in front of people, done her very best and received the applause that is her due – there is no thrill to equal it.

For her.

Or for me.

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