Each of us have things in our past of which we are not proud; events that we wish we could go back in time and do differently. But until time travel is made possible, we will have to make do with the next best thing—trying to guide our children to avoid making the same mistakes we made. This was so readily apparent to me this past Monday when Brooklyn went to school with her “Annie” shirt on…
When I was in the 4th or 5th grade, I wanted to participate in the school’s talent show, notwithstanding the fact that I had absolutely no talent to speak of. So with my vinyl single of “Wake Me Up Before You Go Go” with the B-side of the instrumental version of the song, my white pants and my “Choose Life” t-shirt, to the talent show I went. Disregarding the fact that my singing voice was awful (and hasn’t improved despite puberty), I belted out that song as best as I could, singing my little heart out, to the delight of the neighborhood cats I am sure. So what if I couldn’t dance around the stage like I wanted because the microphone was only a few feet long… I was feeling the music and was showing my “talent.”
After the performances were concluded (and I honestly cannot tell you what anyone else did for their talent), then the hard part started—the wait to find out if I had won. The teacher in charge of the talent show was planning an awards ceremony to honor the performers and I was convinced that my name would be called. So I waited and I waited and I checked in with the teacher on an almost daily basis to find out when the awards ceremony would take place. I needed to know the day so that I could be ready.
Finally the day came. I got dressed in my white pants and “Choose Life” t-shirt, did my very best to keep from getting dirty as the day went on, and waited until the afternoon for the ceremony. To my immense surprise and dissatisfaction, I did not win the talent show. In fact, I don’t think that anyone won. The teacher did call up each of the performers to receive some sort of trophy, and I ran up with a smile on my face, but the smile belied my disappointment.
As I look back on it now, and as my mom every once in a while alludes to that fated performance, I am reminded of how much of a fool I must have been—to not only think I could sing, but to dress up in the pants and T-shirt not only for the talent show but then again for the “awards ceremony,” and then to be disappointed that I didn’t win! The word that comes to mind is “dork” and I am sure that is exactly what it looked like to everyone else.
So when Brooklyn went to school last week with her “Annie” shirt on because she was going to be performing “Tomorrow” at her school’s talent show, all of those emotions and feelings came back. The feeling of embarrassment and shame, reliving the moment of hearing my name called during the “awards ceremony” and running up to the stage with my silly “Choose Life” t-shirt, the cracks in my voice as I tried to hit those unreachable notes… and don’t get me started on simply hearing the word “jitterbug.” Truly the stupidest word ever invented…
Yes, all of those feelings came back and my nerves were on edge. Children are so fragile; their hopes and dreams can be dashed in an instant. My daughter, who loves to sing and dance… how will she react if the crowd doesn’t embrace her “talent?” Brooklyn, at 7, whose voice is still developing, who can’t quite yet get all of the notes to “Tomorrow,” a terribly difficult song to sing; my daughter, who still loves princesses and Hello Kitty; what will be the reaction of the rest of her classmates? Will this be a good experience or a wretched one, something she will look back on when she is 37 years old and regret?
No matter how much I tried to talk her out of it, she insisted on singing this particular song, so she practiced and practiced and practiced. She probably could have used more practice, but, as they say, the show must go on, and on it went. She did one performance during the day for her classmates and all that I heard was that it was fine. She didn’t tell me any more details. But that evening was the performance for family and friends, and the butterflies were swarming in my stomach. It didn’t help that out of over 25 performers, Brooklyn went second to last. If she was nervous, she didn’t show it. Lord knows whether I showed it.
Knowing now what I didn’t know then, I gave Brooklyn one piece of advice. I told her that she had only one job to do as it related to the performance, and that was to have fun. If she had fun, then it wouldn’t matter what everyone else said or how the crowd reacted. All that mattered was that she had fun doing it—advice that I could have used when I was trying out my George Michael imitation.
Well, needless to say, she did a wonderful job. Was it perfect? No. Did she embarrass herself? Absolutely not. Was I a proud dad? You bet. She smiled, she sang her heart out, she missed some notes, but she seemed to enjoy every second of it, and that is all that mattered. And I could not have been more proud of her.
Oh yeah, something else– My parents came to cheer Brooklyn on as well and they were beside themselves with pride and joy over their oldest grandchild… but I can still hear my mom singing “Wake Me Up Before You Go Go” as she walked through Brooklyn’s school parking lot to get to their car to go home…
Some things just never go away…
Have a great week.