Last night, the daughter I call Thing 2 was in “The Jungle Book: Kids” at school.
She wasn’t the main character Mowgli, nor one of the sidekicks Baloo or Bagheera.
She wasn’t even a member of the Elephant Troupe or the Jungle Chorus.
She was props – specifically the person opening and closing the stage curtains.
When she began this year at school, her father and I told her she had to take part in one of three things this year: the Oratorical competition, the musical or the Talent Show. When she came home from the musical try-outs and told me she was on the props team, I wanted to say, “Props don’t count!”
The whole purpose of getting her to be in some sort of presentation was to draw her a little out of her shell. By nature, Thing 2 is social, but compared to me, she’s very shy. Her sister, Thing 1 is even more shy than that. I’ve always been an extrovert and have a hard time understanding non-people people.
I can be the Louisa Glasson and my children, the Dr. Martin Ellingham from the popular British show, “Doc Martin.” My children don’t have the best people skills and even though I’ve tried to help them, they are not interested in being polite and engaging in small talk.
The musical is for 4th and 5th graders. Last year, Thing 2 refused to have anything to do with it. The fact that she was on the props team was a positive baby step. But it was hard for me as a parent to be there. I mean, what do I take a picture of? The curtains as they’re opening?
I was so star struck at her age. I dreamed of moving to Los Angeles or New York to be an actress, dancer or singer. I was the only kid at my high school that had a subscription to “Playbill” magazine, which was filled with Broadway news and gossip. I could tell you everything about “A Chorus Line”, “Cats” and “42nd Street.” For fun, I attended musicals and plays at the Shreveport Little Theatre and the Marjorie Lyons Playhouse.
Here I was in a crowded cafeteria/auditorium among parents and relatives who had their cameras out and bouquets of flowers for their “little stars.” I felt so out-of-place. Why was I here anyway? I could leave and she wouldn’t even know if I was in attendance. But, I stayed.
After the show was over, she was beaming. She had fun and I realized this was a huge accomplishment for her. When we were leaving, we passed by the pictures in the hallway of the cast and crew. As a fundraiser, the PTA sold stars, cut out of yellow construction paper, for a quarter each. People would buy these stars, write a quick note of congratulations and tape them next to the person’s picture. I had purchased one for Thing 2 and thankfully a neighbor who is in the 1st grade also purchased one for her. Thing 2 was so excited that she had two stars. Then she said, “Look at ___’s picture. She doesn’t have any stars and she even had a singing role.” Thing 2 was clearly distressed by this so we turned around and she bought a star, wrote a note and placed it on the girl’s picture.
I realized something deeper was at place here. My daughter might never be what I aspire her to be. (I never became what my mom wanted me to be). But, she showed compassion towards someone else. That was character.
She may never be the visible star of a musical, but in the background she showed character. That’s the better thing.