by Jean Alexander
I am the proud mother of three children. Each is different. Each has talent they were born with and skill they acquired. They have different likes and dislikes, approach the world differently, and are uniquely themselves.
Two of my children are theatre kids. In many lobbies post-show, there is the oft-heard refrain “Johnny was wonderful” “Thank you, Susie was too”. Those heartfelt words are sincere. We are all pleased with the efforts that go into community productions for our youth. We know the value gained for these young people with the bravery and panache to go on stage and sing and dance and act. And equally so those young people backstage who are integral parts of the show.
With my first theatre child, during one particularly good experience, I found myself stumbling over the repeated refrain. Complimenting the other wasn’t a problem. But I found myself unable to accept the compliment the same way. Thank you? Was I accepting a compliment for my child’s performance? That wasn’t me. I wasn’t on stage. I can’t take credit.
As a parent there are some things I do credit myself with. Please and thank you don’t occur naturally so there was some training there. Modeling hard work and a sometimes hated perfectionism probably had an impact. A penchant for punctuality was shared. A desire to learn and read and explore was hopefully passed on.
But so much of what my children are they were born with or developed themselves. I didn’t choose their favorite color, their favorite genres, their likes and dislikes any more than their sexual preference. I didn’t make the choices they did in performing that role, singing that song. They took their own raw materials and honed them into what they are now bringing to the world.
It isn’t always that I don’t say thank you. When I don’t it’s usually because I am in awe of what they have done. I’m as appreciative as my fellow parents of what they brought to the audience. I compliment them, rightfully so. And I thank, sometimes silently, the people who worked with them on the show – the director, music director, choreographer, fellow actors, etc. They all deserve credit more than I.
With my first theatre child I raised this discussion with a friend who understood and advised me to just say thank you. But I can’t. You’ll hear me say “She’s having so much fun” or “He was so grateful to be part of the show”.
Of course I pass along the compliments to the final recipients. And they always say thank you. I’ll take credit for that.