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Stupid Talent Show

Every year I kvetch about the school talent show, and every year I cry during it.

So just deal with it.

This year has been particularly stressful to me: the music teacher told students they were allowed to be in three different acts at the most, which Cora took to mean “You should really do three acts.” I would not care so much, except for the fact that Cora doesn’t really like to, how should I put this, rehearse.

Which gives me a great deal of agita and just might put me in an early grave.

Since performing is what I did for a living, it’s hard for me to throw my kids up on any stage and just let them mess around. Not only would I be thinking about how they aren’t really putting any effort out, but I’d also cringe as I worried about the other parents and kids who have to sit through a narcissistic, watch-me-for-no-good-reason three minutes. And I’m not knocking people who aren’t the best singers in the world, but get up and sing anyway; or who can’t really dance but give it a good go. I’m talking about kids who decide to do something but don’t practice it or memorize it or really put any effort into it, then want us to watch them for three minutes. You know you’ve seen these kids.
I’ve spent the past few months gently (I promise!) encouraging my kids to start practicing for their respective pieces: Maddie sang a solo and a duet, and Cora sang a solo, a duet, and danced a solo dance as well. Some time in January (JANUARY!) Maddie said, “I don’t need to practice my solo. I already know it.”

Me: “Well, you may want to go through it every once in a while, make sure you’ve got it still.”

Maddie: “Why? Where would it go?”

Maddie also wanted to do movements with her solo which, since she didn’t start rehearsing that until a few DAYS ago, did not happen. That was the same point, coincidentally, where Maddie realized that singing the song to a karaoke track without background vocals is VERY different than singing along to the soundtrack.

She spent probably three hours this past weekend, going over and over it, cramming all her rehearsing into two days.

The duet was a different story: Maddie knew she needed to learn the song, and she and her friend practiced weekly for the past six or so weeks. I had no fears on this piece. And I’m happy to say that both songs went very well; even the costume changes (which we’d practiced at Sunday night’s dress rehearsal – don’t judge) went smoothly.

Then there’s Cora.

I have to tell you: when Cora’s on stage she just lights up. And for her singing solo, she picked the exact same solo as her big sister, a very difficult song from a current Broadway show. Cora “sorta” knew it, but didn’t practice it much with the background track, and I was hyperventilating on her behalf as I thought of my sweet six-year-old up in front of hundreds of people with this monster song. She ran it a couple times last night and felt confident, and that was that.

I was grateful that Cora’s singing solo was her first thing, so she could get that out of the way. As I handed my iPod to the sound guy, I turned to Cora with the lyric sheets and was looking for a music stand when she said, “I don’t want the lyrics.”

I panicked. “Are you sure? It’s pretty long and hard.”

“Yep!” she said, and walked confidently to the microphone.

My kid? Nailed it. And at the end of the song, several other kids around me said, “Wow, that was hard! That was a lot of memorizing! That was really good, Cora!”

Cora flashed a smile at the shouting boys and ran off to change for her dance piece.

For Cora’s dance solo, she chose to “improvise” a dance, just as she did last year. This, as you can imagine, gives me nightmares: what if she gets nervous and just stands there? What if she just spins around for three solid minutes? But I knew from last year that any “Hey, wanna just sketch out the general layout of the dance?” comments would be pointless.

Cora ran to the center of the stage, the music started, and she held it. And held it. Then the gentle intro music exploded.

And so did Cora.

My girl had clearly been thinking about her talent show stuff and working on it in her room at night; she had a structure to the dance and looked so freakin’ joyful it about killed me. Just like her song solo, she rocked the dancing.

When will I stop underestimating my kid?

Cora’s last piece, the singing duet, went quite well also, and even had a backdrop Cora had drawn and colored in over the weekend. For the entire show, Cora was confident, happy, and lit up onstage. I’m telling you, it’s something to see.

I don’t sweat the entire talent show because I’m worried the girls will embarrass me or make me look bad; I’m hyperventilating at the thought of one of them fumbling or faltering, and someone in the crowd yelling something mean, and my girl will be devastated. I think I’d strip nekked and streak through the gym just so everyone would be talking about ME and not my daughter. I? Would do anything to help my child avoid emotional pain like that, and what gets harder for me every year is the realization that the older they get, the less I’m SUPPOSED to help them avoid that emotional pain: the mistakes are theirs to make, the consequences theirs to survive.

Both girls looked so happy afterwards, holding the roses we always bring them for the talent show, and I smiled and once again said, “Yep, totally worth it.” Not because they’re such amazing, precious, talented children – just because they enjoy what they do, and they learn how to handle all that pressure pretty gracefully.

Clearly much more gracefully than I handle it.


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