Another parenting level reached, and I have no idea what to do
Parenting is like Pac-Man. You work so hard to master a level, and then you do, and then the next board appears on screen and you’re ready to rock and totally kill it but Blinky, Pinky, Inky and Clyde speed up and before you know it you’re hearing the “whir-whir-whir-whir-woot-woot” sound and it’s time to put another quarter in the machine.
OK. Wow. That metaphor got away from me quick. Let’s try this again: Parenting just got harder for me, and I didn’t see it coming.
See, my son is trying out for a role in McCarter Theatre’s annual production of “A Christmas Carol.” The tryouts are today. Odds being what they are, I don’t expect him to get a part, but you never know. He wants it, that’s for sure. He’s got to do a script read and sing a song from a musical. (He’s doing “Tomorrow,” from “Annie.” Classic, right? Anyway …)
Anyway, here’s the “parenting got hard” part of it: I had no idea he wanted to act. Zero. And quite possibly, he didn’t either.
We were on vacation in Mexico at the end of the summer and at the resort we were at, they had nightly shows. These were hour-long productions, and they were good. I’m not saying they were Broadway quality, but they were certainly a step above local theater. It was a full-time job for the actors, set designers, etc. One evening they were putting on “The Lion King,” and my son — who is a bit of a ham — was asked to be part of the show along with a handful of other kids.
Next thing I know he’s got a 2:30 p.m. rehearsal, and then a 6:30 p.m. rehearsal and costume fitting, and after we dropped him off at that point, we weren’t going to see him again until he was onstage at 9 p.m.
So now it’s 9 p.m., the curtain comes up and ... he wasn’t there.
My wife and I panicked in the “holy crap where is our 8-year-old son we left him backstage in Mexico and now he’s disappeared” kind of way you might expect a parent to panic.
Only hitch to this well-deserved panic? He was there. We just didn’t recognize him on stage. Sure, he had on some lion makeup and such, but the reason we didn’t recognize him because whereas all the other kids on stage were lost and going through the motions, our kid was all LinManuel Miranda up there, full of energy and pop.
We didn’t know he had it in him.
When it was over, we asked him if it was fun, and he was like, “YES !!!! .” You have to understand: He’s usually like most 8-year-old boys in that getting anything out of him is not easy. So to see his excitement was pretty cool.
So we get home, my wife starts Googling, we see auditions for “A Christmas Carol,” we ask him if he wants to tryout, he says “YES!!!” and next thing you know everyone in the house is mindlessly belting out “Tomorrow” while they do the dishes.
OK. So. What’s the hard part here, you ask? Everything seems hunky-dory A-OK, right? Well, except this: How the hell was I supposed to know my kid might be interested in acting? I mean, it was a fluke. Speaking of flukes, how do I know he’s not interested in fishing? I’ve never taken him on a boat. Speaking of boats, how do I know he’s not interested in boat repair? I never even bought the kid a tool set. Speaking of sets …
This line of thought went on for some time in my head.
See, he’s my oldest. I’ve got two younger daughters. For ever and for always, he’s going to be the parental guinea pig. At each level of parenting, you have no idea what to do the first time you encounter something.
And now I’m encountering something new, and I’m realizing, pretty damn important. I’m guessing around 8 years old is the beginning of a new level, a level where his interests will come from some place other than me saying, “I’m signing you up for soccer.” And I have to be on the lookout to expose him to just about everything there is out there, otherwise I’m not doing the best I can for him.
Today, it’s trying out for a play. Tomorrow, it might be anything. My eyes are open.
And before the angry emails come in, my dad didn’t take me fishing either, so back off. We’re not a fishing family. I’ll take the kid fishing. Settle down.
Parenting is like Pac-Man. You work so hard to master a level, and then you do, and then the next board appears on screen and you’re ready to rock and totally kill it but Blinky, Pinky, Inky and Clyde speed up and before you know it you’re hearing the “whirwhir-whir-whirwoot-woot” sound and it’s time to put another quarter in the machine.