Wednesday, May 14, 2014

In Which I Go to a Kindergarten Concert and Have an Epiphany

Pink P’s kindergarten concert was today. For more than a week, she repeatedly explained to me what kind of clothes and shoes she was supposed to wear and how she wasn't supposed wear a dress unless she also wore tights or shorts under it. Before we left, she also reminded me that she needed a flashlight and that we should get there at least 15 minutes beforehand to find a decent seat. In short, she was completely and totally prepared.

Sky's concert was back in December, and our "preparations" was much different. First, were the repeated negotiations about why it was necessary to stand and sing in front of a crowd of total strangers. Then there was the social story about standing still, ignoring all the distracting people in the gym, and what he would be doing in the minutes before and after their performance. There were also numerous e-mails checking and re-checking that it was okay for him to wear what he planned to wear for the concert.

On the day of the concert, I had a hard time enjoying it. Waiting for his class to take the stage, I worked to repress memories of school shows past. Of being pubicly shamed during his preschool show when he did things beyond embarrassing and all the other parents stared at us. Of being told by teachers that he should know better by now. We understand a lot more now than we did then, but concerts are still hard for Sky. For us.

When his class came out, I had to force myself not to slide to the end of my seat and grip the edge of the bleacher. As they sang, Sky bounced around, shifted from side to side, scanned the faces of the parents packing the gym, played with his hands, talked to neighbors, and probably remembered to sing about 40% of the time. During his class’s special performance, he stood distractedly twirling his xylophone mallets (instead of using them to make music like everyone else in his class was doing) as he intently counted the lights hanging from the ceiling in the gym. At one point, Pink P leaned over and asked in a ridiculously loud voice, "Mommy, why is Sky doing that?" Of course, there was really no good answer, particularly since any explanation I could have offered would have required me to yell over the din of whatever song they were singing. Sky was doing exactly what he needed to do to get through this. And, in the end, he did really well, even if his "really well" looked a lot different than everyone else's.

Sitting through Pink P's concert today was an entirely different experience. I didn't slide to the edge of my seat, heart pounding, willing her to make the right choices and to keep her impulses under control. I wasn't trying to mouth the words so she could sing along, flashing her hand signals meant to help her stay on track. I wasn't dreading all the possible things that could go wrong. I was just sitting there peacefully watching a hundred six-year olds sing about friendships and mothers and all the beautiful stars. Pink was engaged and enthusiastic (and awesome!). But, what was so extraordinary about her concert was that it was all so completely ordinary.

As I sat thinking about this, I started to pick out the kindergarten kids who were like Sky --the girl whose eyes wandered and who seemed to be dancing to an entirely different beat, the boy whose sound effects could sometimes be heard over the singing of his classmates. I didn’t notice them at first, but the more I thought about what it’s usually like for me to sit through one of these programs, I started to wonder which of the moms and dads around me were sitting on the edges of their seats silently willing their kids to just get through this thing.

I looked around to see if I could spot those parents in the audience, but as I watched the faces of the other moms and dads, I found something unexpected, instead. I found that in that hot gym filled to every crevice by the cacophonous sound of 100 kindergarteners singing, everyone was focused on his or her own kid. No one cared that the one girl kept lifting her shirt or the other boy kept flapping his hands. Most people just seemed to be enjoying the music.

Here’s hoping some day soon I figure out how to do the same!


Katie said...

The beauty of RSS feeds is we're always here to see what you write even if it's been awhile. :)

Kathy said...

In his christmas concert, my nephew pulled his Santa had all the way over his face and swung his arms back & forth so much that the little girl next to him had to move over - and it was adorable. He got quite a few chuckles and when I looked around, everyone was just enjoying the show. It sounds like Sky & Pink P did great, I'm glad you (and they) got through them!