Z has now had a whopping two rehearsals for her upcoming gig as Gretl in the Sound of Music and while the first one went fairly well, after this last one, I'm fighting a sense of impending doom. I know, I know. Give it time! We'll get used to the new schedule! She'll learn her songs and lines and where she's supposed to stand! She'll figure out she's supposed to actually pay attention when the director is giving instructions instead of, oh, say, putting her shoes on her hands and pretending to walk all over her chair with them!
Yeah. I'm not so sure.
You see, Z has many wonderful qualities - as her mother, I must emphasize the "many" - but self control isn't one of them. Neither is patience or paying attention in an even minorly chaotic situation. She gets revved up in new situations and her excitement spins into physical expression that could be just the bizarre behavior of a normal 6 year old or could be the basis for one of several diagnoses.
(Unfortunately, that last part is not hyperbole.)
I sat in the room for the last two rehearsals, far enough away that I could only watch helplessly as she stuck her hands in her pockets and pulled her dress down so hard her neck elongated like a turtle reaching for food, oblivious to what the director was asking her to do. As I walked her back to the car through the rain last night, I didn't tell her I was concerned she missed important information she will be expected to know at the next rehearsal. I didn't mention the fact that she raised her hand when the director asked who knew the whole song "off book" and then proceeded to look around distractedly and NOT SING while everyone else sang along.
I did not say anything last night because my feelings were a jumble of concern and vanity, love and fear. I couldn't work out if I was upset about it because I feared it reflected on my parenting, on ME. I could still taste the metallic bite of fear that rose in my throat as I watched my 6 year old play with her pencil and pull on her clothes and loll her head around and NOT SING and I immediately feared for her adult future in any pursuit. How can she ever succeed if this is how she behaves when rehearsing for something she is super excited about?
I fought all those fears and I said nothing. I held her hand in mine and I got her home quickly to tuck her in just barely past her bedtime.
Today I sat with her, gently but repeatedly focusing her attention on her script and we went through the songs line by line. I did not enjoy this experience, as it was clear to me that after a full day of school, doing what she's told to do, and an afternoon swim lesson, doing what's she's told to do, this girl who has to work extra hard to hold herself together needed to be loud and silly and messy and hang upside down and NOT do what she's been told to do, if only for a few hours in the day.
Oh I am struggling. We allowed her to audition and to take this part because she was so excited about the idea. We signed up for this and implicitly agreed to help her succeed. But none of us had any real clue how she'd fare at this. Who knows? Maybe she'll rise to the occasion and the success will be a current that carries her forward.
I do know this: this is why stage mothers are a THING. It takes some serious energy and clarity of purpose to push your kid so that they can succeed at something as exacting as performing. I want to help Z succeed at this, because she insists she loves it and wants it so much. So I will run her lines with her and help her practice her songs over and over again, because that is what it takes.
But today I just wanted to have a pillow fight with my 6 year old and then dance to Katy Perry and talk in her loud, emphatic made-up language.
My girl wants so desperately to be IN a play but mostly I just want her to PLAY.