All the world is a stage
Shakespeare opined “All The World is a Stage” and given the cheap, easy-to-produce reality shows that dominate the airwaves, a lot of people are getting their 15 minutes.
The popular show “America’s Got Talent” showcases classic talent while also introducing viewers to under-appreciated, but equally challenging to develop skills like ventriloquism, hand-whistling and contortionists.
There’s a competition or celebrity status for those possessing more basic life skills as well. Amazing Race rewards those with physical endurance and a willingness to actually stop and ask for directions while The Biggest Loser and Survivor favor those who don’t develop a short fuse on an empty stomach.
These talent and out-of-the-box skills competitions are our modern day Gladiator Games. While they are arguably more politically correct, the eviscerating judgments doled out by the likes of Simon Cowell and the Internet makes them no less bloody.
You would think we would want to protect our kids from this sort of battle, but no, year after year parents like me (and you) push our kids on stage to participate in school talent shows even if the talent is better left to perform awkwardly in front of a bedroom or bathroom mirror.
School talent shows are kinder and gentler than ancient gladiator games or even modern day elimination style competition shows. I think of them as preparation for the stage that is life: job interviews, work presentations, speed-dating.
At this level there’s no risk of having your dreams crushed without ever bathing in the warmth of stage lights.The unwritten rules of cooperative parenting mean that all audience members will smile, clap and limit all critiques to the voices in their head.
My kids have participated in school talent shows for more than a decade, yet somehow the spring audition announcements always catch me by surprise. There’s a hustle and rush to loosely support the creation of an “act.”
This is a challenge in our household because each year after the school talent show, I promise myself and the kids, that they will immediately begin piano, violin and voice lessons, coupled with a total ban on television and enrollment in Saturday school designed to discover and cultivate a previously undiscovered and show-stopping talent that belies their tender age.
But then they look at me in horror and say something about just wanting to have fun, and then I break the media rule by showing them a YouTube video in the parking lot as we leave, and we all forget about my lofty aspirations until the next year.
As a result, other parents need not be concerned if their child performs immediately before or after mine.They will not perform a piano concerto, sing opera, or mesmerize the audience with an amazing display of grace and ability using a hula hoop.
My kids’ acts are usually simple, light-hearted and for the most part easy to suffer – I mean, enjoy! Beginning in first grade, oldest son Sweetie-boy used his stage time to perform magic tricks he learned from the generous teacher and owner of the Pike Place Magic Shop. Low maintenance and easy-going Sistafoo happily performs silly skits and this year she did a “dance” to Macklemore and Ryan Lewis’ “Thrift Shop” with her third-grade buddies.
However, Venom Pen rejects my stage-mother tendencies and insists on artistic freedom. He’s the Johnny Depp, the Joaquin Phoenix, the Artist formerly known as Prince of my three kids. In other words, the complicated one.
No matter what I suggest, he begins to shake his head “no” as the first words leave my mouth. His ultimate act may contain traces of a suggestion he pretended to ignore, but usually he goes with his own gut, no matter what it does to mine. His acts have ranged from original songs, sweet duets, skits and the one he would rather forget that involved light sabers and a playground ball.
This year he and a friend decided to tryout for emcees of the middle school talent show. I was not privy to his preparations beyond him rejecting my advice and providing rides to rehearsal. The night of the show I arrived just as he took the stage dressed in a Goodwill bow tie and cobbled tux look alike.
For the next two hours I held my breath each time he and his co-emcee appeared on stage. Each time they disappeared I wiped tears of laughter and relief from my face. In those two hours I watched Venom Pen wrestle a snake, model the super hero cape he got when he was three, emanate a terrifyingly funny maniacal laugh while marching around the stage with the inexplicable confidence of Jim Carrey and then follow a classmate’s sweet solo guitar and song act with his own performance – “I can top that.”
The little boy who couldn’t wait for my planned epidural to enter this world, the one who walked into preschool every day for three years with his arm over his eyes, the kid who left me, his MOTHER, out of his fifth grade heritage project – last Saturday night that same kid sat on a stool onstage at Newport High School strumming the ukelele he has mostly ignored since Christmas and shrieked an ode to Mister Whiskers a cat he doesn’t have:
I hate you so much! You claw me in my sleep!
You took a pee in my bed! You took a crap on my head!
I hope you die in the street!
With that I went from Worst Mother in the World to Proudest Mother in the World – even though Venom Pen refused to hug me on Mother’s Day until the last possible moment.
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