“My son Easton has had really bad asthma ever since he was a baby. It’s one thing we have always had to stay on top of throughout the years. When we moved to Colorado this past February, it really ramped up his symptoms. He was able to play T-ball this spring since it’s very little running, but he hasn’t been able to participate in all of the other faster paced sports. We even have to keep a close eye on him while he runs around our own yard. His out of breathness can get really serious, really fast.
So while his sisters do soccer and gymnastics, we knew we needed to get a little creative with him. I found theater lessons through a Google search and I knew it would be the perfect activity for him. The kid loves being the center of attention! This is something he would totally thrive at while my girls would shrink into themselves. It was the perfect activity!
It was a bit of a drive away from our home, so Easton loved the one-on-one attention he got with me or my husband during that time. We were never allowed to watch the practices but we were allowed to sit in the lobby and listen. On that first day the teachers asked the kids to write their names on a name tag. Easton took that opportunity to show off his creativity by using TWO name tags to write his name. I got the biggest kick out of it. ‘Of course he would be the one to do something completely different than what the other kids are doing!’
As the weeks went on, he was assigned a role in the upcoming performance all of the kids would do at the end. He only had two lines to say, but man we practiced those lines every night! My husband would challenge him to come up with different voices until he found one that fit his character. Once he landed on a particular voice, he started practicing that voice during every day conversations. It was pretty funny for us all to endure!
The night of the big performance came and my husband was called out of state for work. (Ugh!) So I packed up all six kids and we went to watch together. Easton is always going to their soccer games and gymnastics events so I wanted all of the others to come to his special event. Plus, none of them had ever participated in anything like this before so I knew it would be way more exciting than not. We sat down and anxiously awaited for it to start.
The very first scene is a song that all of the kids danced to. Everyone came out onto the stage and the music started. Easton noticed us all sitting there and gave us a huge smile with a ton of waves. We all waved and smiled back. Then he bee-lined it for the black curtains at the side of the stage. My immediate first reaction was, ‘Crap. He’s totally freaked out. Maybe I was wrong in thinking he would love this!’
I watched him for a second and noticed him laughing as he was twirling himself up in the curtains. There was nobody there at either side of the stage to stop him so he just kept spinning, laughing, twirling, and untwirling himself in those curtains. I cringed a little bit and thought to myself, ‘Oh my. He totally isn’t doing what he’s supposed to be doing! He’s totally not listening!’ Meanwhile, all of the other kids kept on singing and dancing.
The kids all ran off to either side at the end of the song and then the director announced the next scene. Easton ran on and nailed his part. He didn’t have any talking lines in this particular one. But he got to act like a puppy for a minute, which, if you know anything about Easton and the pants we are currently going through with ripped up knees, this was his favorite part of the night. He embodied a puppy better than any other child could! I laughed while he pranced around, barking with everything he could.
After that scene was over, I knew he was supposed to stay on the stage for the very next scene. This was where he would say his speaking lines. But he ran off towards the black curtains again and begun spinning himself up in them over and over again. The other kids started saying their lines and Easton was still not there. I started to get this fiery, internal rage inside of me. In the moment I was upset that he was clueless as to what was going on and that he only cared about those curtains. But I was even more upset that NOBODY told him to get on stage. He’s six! Why wasn’t there anyone there to direct him? The director never once stopped to make sure all of the kids that were supposed to be out there, were.
His speaking part came up and all of the other kids just looked blank-faced at each other. One kid turned to Easton and started waving him on. But Easton, being Easton, never even noticed him. I was getting more and more angry by the second. He literally had TWO lines. Two! These lines we’ve practiced for weeks and weeks. He’s not even going to get the chance to say them? This company isn’t organized enough to know that SIX-year-old’s need more help than that? Is this just how theater is? If you don’t pay enough attention to go on when you’re supposed to, you’re just SOL?
The kids on the stage just bolted towards the sides, even though they didn’t finish the scene. Easton wasn’t there so they just assumed they were done. In the moment I was just so shocked that nothing was done that I didn’t even stand up and yell for him to come on. I know holding a sleeping six-month-old had something to do with that, but looking back, that’s absolutely what I should have done. I also didn’t want to look like ‘that’ parent…but now I wish I would have.
I sat in my chair as I watched the next few scenes, just SO sad that I didn’t get to see him really perform what he’s been practicing. In the moment I was just like, ‘Really? We spent all that money for them to not even realize he was missing off of the stage? Do they even know who he is? Do they even know his name? We spent all of that time driving back and forth for what, exactly? None of this was worth it!’ I was honestly holding back the tears. I was so disappointed.
Then came a scene Easton was not supposed to be in, and yet he was on the stage anyways. The kids were speaking their lines and he just sat in the middle looking completely lost. So he reverted to one of his nervous ‘ticks’ which is to scratch himself all over. He started lifting up his shirt and scratching his skin, pulling up his sleeves and pant legs to scratch. My oldest daughter turned to me and asked, ‘Mama, why is Easton scratching himself so much? Does he need some lotion?’ I just told her to keep watching and not to worry about what he was doing. But it was literally all anyone could focus on.
The very last scene involved all of the kids on the stage and they were to all act like they were ‘worshipping’ a particular character. So this character stood on a box and they all were supposed to move in really close to this box. However, Easton decided to use this moment to take a different approach. He quickly realized that his shoes would make a really loud sound if he stomped them. So he stomped around the stage, moving all over it – jigging and jagging every which way. Meanwhile, all of his theater-mates were in this tight bunch. But there was Easton – doing his own thing all over the rest of the stage.
In the moment, I was just horrified. In my head, this whole thing was going downhill so hard and fast. ‘Why in the world did I ever think this would be a good idea? He’s been struggling so hard with listening in school lately and this just proves it! But now, all of these people are witnessing it!’ I couldn’t see the beauty for what it was in the moment.
The director walked up and asked all of the kids to take a bow. Instead of doing that, Easton ran off stage to play in the black curtains. The picture of all of the kids bowing doesn’t include Easton. I was so done with this whole thing at this point.
I grabbed all five of the kids sitting with me and I waved Easton down from the stage. We quickly went out to the car and I loaded everyone up. I know from being an athlete myself that the best thing you can say to someone who just performed something is, ‘I really enjoyed watching you! Did you have fun?’ I knew it wasn’t the time to be like, ‘Why weren’t you on stage to say your lines? Why did you keep playing in the curtains even though you know those aren’t toys?’ But I wanted to. I wanted to just be like, ‘WHY!? Why can’t you just listen and pay attention!!!!?’
But instead, I stuck with my, ‘I really enjoyed watching you! Did you have fun?’ and gritted it out through my own forced smile.
His face lit up so big and he couldn’t stop talking about all of the people who were there to watch him. He said, ‘Did you see me acting like a dog? I got to bark and everything! Really, really loud!’
It made the sting of what I was feeling a little bit better. But I was still so sad. I was so sad I never got to see him say those dang two lines. I know it’s such a small thing in the grand scheme of life. But I couldn’t help but feel like all of that money we paid did nothing in terms of them actually doing their job and holding up their end of the bargain.
I drove home crying. The kids sat in the back and laughed and talked about what they just got to watch. Some of them even said they wanted to try it next time, too. ‘Over my dead body am I paying that company any more money!’ is literally all I thought the whole way home.
I came home and my husband had just arrived from out of town. I asked my friend if I could come over for a few minutes because I seriously needed to vent. She let me get it all out and then asked to watch the dozens of videos I took. After getting some perspective from her that I had every right to be upset with the company, she suggested that I should still try to see the experience from his eyes. So we watched the videos together and I saw smiles on his face I never noticed the first time. I saw him waving to me and his eyes lighting up in a way I missed in the actual moment. My vision was skewed by anger and embarrassment when I took those videos. ‘What was there to be embarrassed by? Look at him! He’s so happy to be up there! He may have never had a speaking line, but he outshined all of those kids by just being there! I know you probably felt like all of the other parents were judging you and him. But if I saw him up there, I would have enjoyed him so much! It’s harder as a mom to see that sometimes. But trust me, he was a star!’
And she was right. The kid was a star and he didn’t even need to say a word.
The next morning I contacted the theater company. Had I called them the night before, the conversation would have been led with anger and resentment. But I decided to take a different route. I decided to let them use this as a teaching moment. They need more people on the sides of the stage. They need more hands on deck next time. These kids are too young to really know what’s going on.
While we are going to try a different company closer to home this time, I will absolutely walk into that theater on performance night with more open eyes and less expectations. I will look for his smile and wave because that’s when I know it was all worth it.
Being perfect doesn’t make something worth it – having fun does.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Molly Schultz of Tried and True Mama. You can follow her on Instagram. Do you have a similar experience? We’d like to hear your important journey. Submit your own story here. Be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.
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