At the risk of being kicked out of the Motherhood Sorority (Gamma Gamma Waah!) I will admit here to having enormous trepidation when it comes to listening to small, unrelated children with musical instruments perform in public. A few months back I attended an all school assembly with my children in which the third grade class trooped up on stage with musical instruments. At one point I looked around for the Candid Camera, sure there was no way the noises being issued from the stage could be anything other than a joke. The squeaks and squeals stayed with me for days like swimmers ear.
I barely recovered when last week Jonah came home and told me excitedly,
“Guess what mom? We’re doing a talent show at camp!”
Kids love to see kids performing and they should: it shows that children can be powerful presences, commanding the attention of entire rooms of people. My boys are delighted to attend all manner of child performances, which means I have sat through numerous elementary school plays, dances, as well as the aforementioned musical assemblies.
Unfortunately my children do not hale from a particularly talented family. We are not musically inclined, not athletic, not skilled in the culinary arts, nor do we make up for our shortcomings by being particularly industrious. If there was an Olympic event involving puttering around, reading books and chatting… But alas, these skills do not a talented public performance make.
Like any half-way decent, mildly obsessive 21st century parent, I’ve acquired an assortment of musical instruments to encourage right brain development for my boys. We now have two electric keyboards, two tambourines, two marching drums (what the heck was I thinking?) two harmonicas, thumb harps, and a couple of xylophones gathering dust and spider webs in the basement.
Given their genetic endowments, it is also no surprise my boys have shown little athletic prowess. In spite of the presence of every type of sporting equipment known to human kind in our shed and still several more in the various corners of our own and neighbor’s yards, they have yet to play a game involving a ball for more than ten minutes.
So the very idea of a talent show made me nervous both for my own sake and for my children’s. Nevertheless, I told myself to keep open minded.
It all went down like this: There was a fashion show in which children wearing outgrown Halloween costumes and neck ties around their heads strode around. Then a violin duet of two sweet, serious young boys screeched their way through several endless, unrecognizable melodies. Then, not one or two but three children did cartwheels clumsily. For about three hundred years.
There was some talent among the camp counselors, cheerful young adults who played guitar, sung, and danced. There was the eight year old break dancing boy who was genuinely good at dancing. (His mother shared that the family loves to watch “So You Think You Can Dance” and that she gave him a good talking to beforehand about no crotch-grabbing.)
My own boys could have been covered in chicken feathers and echo locating in the manner of bats on stage. No one would have batted an eye.
The standards of the childhood talent show are remarkably low. I take this as an inspiration. If a child with no apparent skills or abilities can perform in public, why can’t we adults be more courageous to push our own envelopes of habit and try out new behaviors? I’ve been writing and interviewing about creativity and self care this month. My two super simple main points are
- Creativity is oxygen for your life
- Perfectionism is death