No good deed …

Last night we did something we never do: We stayed out past dark. Dan, who normally avoids social activity on Friday evenings, preferring to recoup some energy after expending so much during the work week, suggested we go see a production of “Snow White” at the school where he teaches. It was going to be an interactive show and kids in the audience could participate, maybe even go on stage and act as dwarves, Dan explained. Six-year-old Annabelle was thrilled.

“I like acting,” she said. “I’m going to get that job when I grow up.”

Oliver, who is by far the more reserved of my two children, stated repeatedly that he had zero interest in being a dwarf. He would watch the play, but he would NOT participate.

“Don’t be so emphatic about it,” Dan said to Oliver as he drove toward the school, ignoring the fact that Oliver hasn’t yet worked “emphatic” into his third-grade vocabulary.

Normally, if Oliver doesn’t like something, Annabelle automatically assumes it isn’t worth her time to try it. He doesn’t particularly like performing. He first explained this to us when he was 6 and I was trying to make him go to church. The worst part about Sunday school, he said, was the singing.

“I don’t like singing,” he said. “It makes me feel like I’m a religious person, which I’m not.”

My question was, at 6 years old, how did he know he was not a religious person?

For what seemed like years after that, Annabelle would say she didn’t like singing, either, but I knew it wasn’t true. From her infancy, she perked up when she heard music. She liked musical movies and shows the most. Even now, if she hears a good song on the stereo, she’ll run over and sing if she thinks no one is looking.

So all of us going to an interactive play on a Friday night felt to me like kind of a breakthrough for not only Dan, but Annabelle, too.

Everything was just great until they called for kids in the audience to volunteer to be dwarves. Annabelle’s hand shot up and stayed up. But they picked seven kids, and she wasn’t one of them.

At first she tried to hide her disappointment. I heard a muffled sniffling and saw her wiping away tears. In the grand scheme of things, I knew this was nothing. It was nothing compared to having a kid who is really sick. It was nothing compared even to having a child with food allergies and chronic skin problems, which affects our lives pretty much every day.

But still I felt a little stab in the heart for her. I knew it was among the first of many times she’ll feel rejection. It wasn’t even real rejection this time, but someday, it will be.

Dan looked over at Annabelle as she hid her face and sniffled.

“Why is it everything I do turns to crap?” he asked me. He didn’t really say “crap,” of course. It’s just that since we’re both supposed to be role models, I try to avoid cursing in public, much, or admitting that he ever curses.

“I don’t know,” I told him. “I often ask myself the same question.”

Annabelle asked if we could just leave. I told her that we couldn’t walk out then because it would be rude.
I told her I would sign her up for acting classes so she could have a chance to play a part.

“When can I start?” she asked me. “Can I start tomorrow?”

And it was only intermission. On top of that, there were no refreshments for sale, and I was really craving a cookie.

I know I’ll be a pretty laid-back parent when it comes to my kids getting picked for whatever team they’re trying for. I’m not very competitive and I don’t feel like my kids’ lives will be ruined if they don’t make varsity. I’m the opposite of a Tiger Mom.

But rejection sucks, even when it is only perceived rejection.

Some of my friends and colleagues believe we coddle our kids too much these days, give them too many awards for showing up and tell them they’re all special when it’s a lie. I disagree. I’m not a big fan of the You’re Not Special movement. By the time kids are in middle school, someone makes sure they know they’re not special and why. I can still remember a guy in my creative writing class when I was in high school making fun of a birthmark on my chest. He said it looked like bird crap. Except he didn’t say “crap” either. I still think of him every time I wear a V-neck shirt.

At any rate, we survived “Snow White” on Friday and Annabelle wasn’t crying when we left. She just asked me when she could start those acting classes I had mentioned.

We let the kids stay up late, so naturally they got up early.

At least I’ve figured out what kind of classes I can sign Annabelle up for. Like so many parents with more than enough real problems, I admit that I had been doing a fair amount of deliberating on that issue.

As for keeping my kids out after dark, I’m feeling the same way about that as I have about a lot of my recent endeavors: Never again … until next week.


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