Holiday Programs: Children Make Adults Out of Children

Today there was a pretty impressive Holiday Program at my kids’ school. There was singing and dancing, snazzy outfits with shiny shoes, flautists, pianists and even a visit from Despereaux. Two kids caught my eye, there were two children who simply mesmerized me and neither was my own.

The kindergarten and first grade kids took the stage looking like children and not the toddlers who had entered school in the fall. When they left, the second and third grades took the stage, and I burst into tears. You see, we’re missing a mother. Just a few days before school began this fall we lost Melissa in a terrible accident. I’m sure that I’m not the only mother who was immediately drawn to the child with the saddle shoes and Melissa’s almond eyes. I’m certain that I’m not the only one who was relieved that Dad is managing so well, but deeply saddened that he needs to. She’s our girl; we all love her so very much. It’s a desperate love, the love we hope someone would have for our child.

I looked around at our little school community and I felt proud and alive and grateful. I cried a little because I know that Melissa would
have loved all the planning and choreography that leaves me happy for
my kids, but a little flat. I’m not a stage mom. Show me a grade or a
score, I’m too linear and literal, I need women around who color outside the lines. I miss Melissa and what she brought to our community. I felt so honored to be trusted with her child that I cried and it wasn’t all grief, but it certainly doesn’t have a name.

As the second and third grades left the stage the fourth and fifth emerged. The girls are taller, the boys are sillier and rowdier, the choreography is complex and the ante is upped. This is serious business, at least a few of the kids have imdb pages and more than you might expect have agents. Ten year old girls spend six hours on a Sunday rehearsing with Broadway Bound because they like it.

There’s one boy who stands out, Bob. Bob is on the spectrum, I believe he has a diagnosis of Asperger Syndrome and he’s the best teaching tool that their sweet school has. Bob is different, but not dramatically, he’s smart and he’s quiet, he’s affable and he can be very funny, but he’s not interested in dancing or music or pleasing a crowd. Bob is more like me than anyone I know. I find myself drawn to him. I like that he’s a beat behind the dancers and yawning in the middle of a song. I notice that he’s trying though, because last year he didn’t even feign interest. Bob is changing, and I’m a little sad about that because he was my go to kid. He was the one who told you everything on his mind with neither censor nor malice.

Today I noticed girls on either side of Bob tapping him, helping him keep the beat. I saw their tiny hands guide him and help him. Surrounded by material wealth, drowning in doting parents and the best education that money could buy, the real learning today came with Bob. His gentle presence and open face has touched the children of my community. Bob is changing and he’s walking with his peers, at times Bob is leading them more than they will ever know.

Today I watched two kids perform. My kids were on the stage too.

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