My daughter spent seven years in a kids’ theater program in our neighborhood, starting as the baker/spoon/villager-with-pitchfork in Beauty and the Beast and working her way up to Scarecrow in The Wizard of Oz.
After the final show in the spring of their eighth-grade year, the director shared anecdotes about each of the kids graduating to high school drama. When it was my daughter’s turn, the director started with, “I wouldn’t share this story for some kids, but I’ve known these parents long enough to know they won’t mind.”
It is safe to say that this is a terrifying beginning to a public acknowledgment of your child.
“At her first audition,” the warm-hearted, patience-of-a-saint director continued, “she got up on stage in her mismatched knee socks and rumpled clothes, her hair sticking out in all directions, singing completely off-key, and all I could think was, ‘Does this child have parents? Does no one love this child?’”
I’m sure she went on to say lovely things about my daughter’s growth in the program and her gift for physical comedy, but I can’t really remember the details. I was too busy trying to decide if I should be flattered for the public acknowledgment that my self-worth is not (too) tied up in public perceptions of my child, or horrified that I can’t escaping the fires of judgment even in a dopey little drama program held in the back room of a hippie-dippie church.
It’s been two years and I’m still not sure.