Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Strategic Parenting

For the first three years I took advantage of my husband’s generous nature. The paper came home from the elementary school, announcing a lip sync contest. I really had no interest in going. Tons of hyper kids running all over the place while their friends took turns dancing to the latest Hannah Montana song. Plus the auditorium seats are really uncomfortable to me, trying to squeeze my artificial leg into a place that doesn’t offer a lot of leg room. So Jeff was the brave one who stepped up and said, “I’ll go”, when Sam’s pleading kindergartener eyes begged for chance to see what it was all about.

They returned that night, one excited and one telling me with his grown up eyes that I owed him a huge favor. Then the next year rolled around and somehow Jeff got sucked in again. Pleading first grader eyes this time. And from there it became a father-son tradition. The paper comes home and Sam runs to dad, knowing it’s ‘their thing’. I couldn’t be happier.

Even though I have loved staying home on that specific Friday night I couldn’t help but catch their enthusiasm as their tradition grew. Every year they bound in the door (at least one of them does) and spill out stories about which song was the favorite that year, meaning they heard more versions of it than should be legal. They began to have their own inside jokes and often turned to give each other a knowing grin when specific songs came on the radio, having shared memories of that song in an elementary school auditorium.

So when the paper came home this year, my only excuse is that I was weak. Thinking of the fun my boy has had attending these yearly events with his dad, when he turned to me and said, “Can I be in the show this year?” I didn’t hesitate to say, “Sure, sweetie!”

Then came the more loaded question, which I should have pondered on before answering.

“Mom, will you be our sponsor?”

In that first split second it sounded fun. Plus I was really excited that my boy, who is the silliest one of the bunch in the privacy of our own home, but incredibly shy when an outsider is around, really wanted to get up on a stage and participate in a show. Another “Sure, sweetie!” came out of my mouth.

You can surely see where this is going. The next thing I know the date is approaching and we have to practice. We, meaning Sam and two of his full-of-energy third grader friends. They picked the song “Kung Fu Fighting” (of course), thinking they could just run around kicking each other and it would count for an act.

Unfortunately the papers coming from school put an end to that plan. Since most years it was turning into a dance show, not a lip sync show, the leaders were requesting that the kids actually learn the words, imagine that, and in turn, actually mouth them while they did their act. This meant forcing little boys to sit still long enough to pay attention to the fact that songs had WORDS.

Then there came the detail of costumes. Of course they needed to look the part. Two of the three have never been in martial arts classes so we had to find robes somewhere.

My childhood years in 4-H and grown up years making Halloween costumes finally paid off. For two bucks a yard I found some adequate white fabric and in a couple of hours on a Saturday afternoon we had three matching, almost karate looking, white robes. Now, on to choreography.

I have no, I mean no dance experience. Never a cheerleader. Never had even a sister who was a cheerleader. Never taken a dance class. Not even a martial arts class. The closest I’ve come is one Tai Chi class at my gym in Utah. I survived but have blocked out the details for reasons to be explained another day.

The friends came over during our long weekend off school and spent about four hours playing video games and legos and six minutes practicing for this looming event.

Jeff and Isaac jumped in and offered suggestions. (helpful, even!) Meredith and Michael walked through the rehearsal and kindly held their comments, choosing instead to just roll their eyes. But with a bit of insistence we finally got a few moves lined up. Very simple moves, but something more than just jumping around karate chopping everything in sight.

So now our dress rehearsal is on Wednesday. I have no idea what to expect. They might surprise me and remember every move we practiced. Or they might just run around chopping on each other. Or maybe they will all freeze up and refuse to go on stage at all. I have no idea what to expect.

But no matter what happens, it will be fine. Three normally shy boys will have attempted to step out of their shells for a brief time and take part in a school tradition. The show will go on - if they do great, if they don’t, and if they refuse to even go on stage.

And I have learned another important parenting lesson. Sometimes stepping up isn’t so bad. Sometimes being involved can be rewarding. Sometimes winging it for your kid works out.

And sometimes, when the paper comes home from school, you should pretend not to see it, hoping the gullible dad will get first dibs.

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