Wednesday, December 15, 2010
Parent Like a Rock Star
At one time in my life I had a dream of performing on Broadway playing the role of Fantine in Les Miserables. That dream died quickly when the reality of adulthood set in and I envisioned an ambitious and naive young actress huddling over a radiator in a shoebox sized apartment wondering if the bundle of coins in her pocket was enough for the next meal. Instead I opted for a more predictable life, choosing family over fame, but I must tell you that the performer in me never died.
This morning, like most mornings, I awoke early to the sound of my alarm, hoping to steal at least fifteen minutes of silence before my children crept in the room. I made my way to the bathroom to get into the shower. I had barely slid the shower curtain over its rod, when the bathroom door opened, and standing in front of me were two sleep-eyed youngsters waiting for their morning kisses. I stepped into the shower, listened to their conversation and threw in a word or two to let them know I was interested in their morning dialogue. From the shower I traveled to the bedroom and then to the kitchen to get breakfast, all the while with two children in my shadow. Since I had an early morning meeting, I knew this would have to be a multi-tasking breakfast. I grabbed the mirror and my makeup from the bathroom and sat down at the dining room table to put my face on. I started with foundation and both girls scooted close to me. I reached into my case to grab the eye shadow and they moved even closer. As I was adding the last few brushes of mascara, my oldest daughter Scarlett said "Mommy, you look really beautiful."
At that moment I realized that my dream of performing on the big stage is a dream realized every day as a parent. No production of Les Miserables can ever compete with the Rock star role I have now. I am the lead in my own production and I have two of the most adoring fans in the world. They sit outside of my shower, waiting until I emerge and offer a smile, a kiss, or a kind word. They watch my every move, whether I am putting on makeup, reading a book, doing dishes or talking on the phone. Like a good fan, they follow me from room to room, encouraging me to perform with my words and actions and trying to steal every moment of time and attention. Their plea for an autograph is concealed in the words "Can you play with me?" or "Do you want to throw the ball?" Their fan club is like no other.
The great psychologist Alfred Adler and the educational philosophy of Reggio Emilia remind us that children are keen observers. They learn and acquire skills by watching the world around them. They adopt behavioral roles based on what they see. If big sister is the "golden child" who can do anything, maybe little sister will learn that the quickest way to get mom and dad's attention is to misbehave and be the "unruly child". This is even more of a reason to be aware that at every moment of the day, you are on stage. The spotlight is shining on you, sometimes so hot that it is unbearable, but nonetheless, you are center stage. Your children are the adoring fans right in front of you studying your moves, your cues, your actions and your words. Perform with precision, always remembering that no one becomes a Rock star without years of practice. Sometimes you will be off key, miss a cue, stumble and fall on stage. Fine tuning only makes the next performance better. Learn from your mistakes and approach the next performance with understanding and forgiveness. And don't only step into your role as a Rock star parent, but celebrate and party like a Rock star too. You have the hardest and MOST IMPORTANT job in the world.