Deciphering the truth in a culture of false.

The Costume Parade

Weaving through the insanely crowded lobby of the school theatre I felt like I was taking my initiation into “stage motherhood” quite well. My two five year olds were scheduled to do two, yes, two “performances” in the Best of Broadway 2012 Showcase and I was thanking God they had managed to stay in relatively good physical shape before this day. Only minor visible cuts and bruises from biking and scooting too vigerously. Costume fittings, preordering lunch, preorder flowers, preorder tickets, find fishnet hose for 5 year olds,(which was actually surprisingly and maybe a little frighteningly easier than I thought it would be), dress rehearsal, photos, video, invite the family and friends, etc. There were so many things we as parents, a.k.a. mom, had to do to get to this day and here we were. Registering for college courses at The University of Texas was easier than this and probably cheaper too.

My husband sits and waits in the cafeteria comparing how much information he really knows about what is happening that day with the other dads. He is starting to get the picture that he is clueless. It’s not really fair to let him find out that way, but hey. It’s his own damn fault for never listening in matters such as this. I had to do all the leg work. Why should he get to walk around with all the confidence of a peacock while I try to figure out how to get my kid’s crazy hair to stay in a tight low bun for more than five minutes? Does HE he have to worry about the twenty sixteen year old ballet students needing to make a costume change giving him the evil eye because his kid decided she had to take a major five minute dumpy in the one bathroom five minutes before show time? NO, I don’t think so. Did he have to peel his daughters off of him as he placed them in the small prison room filled with screaming tiera wearing toddlers and preschoolers wearing itchy costumes?  And I have to say, “Have fun for the next three hours, okay?” As the moms too afraid to leave their kids, I mean “volunteer” moms stay and play with their iPhones and iPads I have to convince myself my kids are perfectly safe and supervised. For the sake of dance class? How is this worth it I’m thinking to myself, but on the outside I’m a proud mom ready to see my kids “have fun.” Does my husband still have the gall to ask me if I knew what I was doing? Yes, he did. Is he still alive you ask? Yes, but just barely.

Finally, they let the parents and obligated loved ones into the theatre. I think I’m so cool because we find the perfect spot, center stage. An hour and a half into the show, I’m not feeling so cool. I haven’t seen my kids perform yet, so I’m getting anxious. Oh, here they come! There they are! Oh, they’re so cute! They don’t have a clue of what they’re doing. One of my daughters is trying her hardest to keep up with the other girls but seems to be going the opposite direction no matter which way the other girls go. My other daughter, nicknamed the “dancing queen” at our house, mouth wide open, eyes wide open, literally looking like a terrified squirrel running around in circles trying to avoid an oncoming truck. Maybe 30 seconds later, it’s all over. THAT was awesome, I’m thinking. Actually, I was really excited they didn’t just stand there like many of the performances I had already been so fortunate to be a captured audience for. Obviously they had paid attention for a couple of minutes of the four hundred dollars’ worth of classes we paid for.

We couldn’t wait to tell them how proud we were. We had flowers and pride just a bursting.  But wait what’s this? We have a couple more performances to watch? Okay. These kids are pretty cute. I think I can sit here and watch a bit more, but soon I’ve got to get out and get the girls’ lunch for them. They’ve already been without real food for going on six hours now.  They should be really ravenous back there and starting to eye up the “volunteers” by now.

So, I sit through ten more back to back juvenile performances and I’m about to go crazy. I look and on either side of me is completely packed with old people and I don’t know who designed this theatre, but they should be shot. There was as little room to walk between the seats as humanly possible, and there were no isles to break up the number of people you had to crawl over to get to out. With no more than 5 seconds between performances I was never going to get out before the lights came back up. I never thought in a million years I would be one of those rude people who walk out of a performance no matter how bad it was, but I did. I had to. My kids were starving to death, drowning in a prison of hairspray and tutus. When did being over privileged become so strenuous? I think I had had gotten about all the sentimental value I was going to get out of this pony show. To think they still had yet to do another thirty second part in the costume parade.

I made my way over the legion of butt sore grandparents and back stage to my girls. I was overwhelmed with relief. One of my daughters spotted me right off the bat and latched on to me like a little sea urchin. I quickly “checked them out” of the tiny dancers’ green room and headed off to the cafeteria where I was first in line to get them their lunch. We peacefully and a little bit guiltily ate our lunch while everyone else (including my husband and parents) were still pretending to enjoy the show or stuck backstage in their itchy tights. I couldn’t have been more proud of my beautiful girls and me. I did awesome. Everything from there on out was gravy. I knew my kids wouldn’t have to wait long to do their scary squirrel impressions and we’d be out of there.

We were going to leave this experience proud mostly because we didn’t quit even when our kids begged us to let them quit. Were we so proud we can’t wait to sign our kids up for dance next year? Let’s just say we had our professionally filmed DVD and pictures, memory complete.

Why do we do this again? Why do we feel we have to spend a small fortune to give them a little culture, a little fine art appreciation at this age? I’m pretty sure the secret is out. There are lots of parents who are not creative, but who want their kids to be creative and will pay a crap load to try and achieve that goal. The hard truth is, I don’t think we get our money’s worth out of it, but we feel like we’re not giving them all the resources to be as talented or at least as well rounded as we wished they could possibly be. Parents that have been through this tell me if they had known what they know now, they would have just put their kids in a costume parade in the garage and took pictures and video and call it a day. They’re totally right! Forget that the improvisational performance would probably have been more entertaining than what we had just suffered through, but for half of the price we spent total, I could’ve bought the girls some tutus, some boas, some hair paint, slapped some mascara and red lipstick on them and been done with it. Hell, if we held the parade down on 6th street people might just pay ME.

Oh, to be a parent in the suburbs with everything at your fingertips. Businesses tailor made to make you spend every last dime on over-stimulating your young child. “Please pay us to subject your child to the cutest form of torture you’ve ever laid eyes on!” “Hurry up and register your child today!” “There are only limited spots available!” “Don’t let your child feel left out!” I tell you. It’s not that the quality of the education, costumes or the organization was lacking. For the older kids who choose to do this, it’s fabulously realistic when it comes to learning how the theatre really works. However, if you have any inkling of an expectation of seeing your under-five year old “wow” your friends and family because you have your kids involved in some high dollar activities, you’re probably going to be sorely disappointed. No disrespect to their wonderful teacher, who God knows had her work cut out for her with my girls, but I’m not so sure the garage costume parade wouldn’t have given them just as much education in the ways of the theatre as the months of lessons we drove to and fro to in sickness and tears or not. Why couldn’t we have put more effort into making our own show? The quality of the family time would at least have been higher rated. We didn’t even get the pleasure of watching them practice as “distracting parents” were not allowed at rehearsals. Sure it’s “free time” for us, but where’s the involvement except for me donating my wallet, my taxi services and my sanity?

So as we’re walking out of the theatre my husband and I thank the girls for their effort as they noticeably tried very hard to do something that resembled a routine. They smiled proud of their hard work and we reassure them there will be no such torture in the near future. I say to the girls, “Would you maybe like to try singing lessons or piano next time? There won’t be any of this all-day, stuff. We know that was hard on you.” My tiny dancer turns and says to me with her serious face as she had clearly been thinking about it since she walked off that stage, “No. Next time I think I’m going to do Karate.” Oh Lord, have mercy.

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