It was an uncommon day that started with a search for a collared shirt and ended with an even rarer affirmation of our philosophy that kids need art – even if they don’t always think they want it.
As expected all of his presentable shirts were dirty and in the hamper – an uncommon event in itself. We were too close to being late for me to be able to appreciate the enormity of the moment. And, knowing it would be dark in the theatre, I found him a clean T-shirt in what I hoped was a conservative gray with conservative blue emblazoned on it.
It was Saturday. Our weekly art quest was recovering from summer vacations and camps, but Hubbard Hall was there to rescue it for one of our kids with a full production of Mozart’s Magic Flute. Even at Hubbard Hall’s very reasonable prices, we decided risking a meltdown before intermission with Thing2 would be an expensive experiment in art appreciation. I, however, was determined to see the show and decided that Thing1 would be the perfect date (Dad and I solve the eternal babysitter conundrum by taking turns going to these shows).
As you can imagine, he was as excited as any twelve-year-old might be at the prospect of spending 2.5 hours of a sunny Saturday sitting in a darkened theatre listening to a 200-year-old show with his increasingly embarassing mother. Only the promise of lunch, a comfortable shirt, and a few hours away from what his younger brother’s version of hero worship helped him keep the anxiety in check. He’s always compliant, however, and he climbed the steps to the theatre, quietly tolerating the familiar chorus of “Someday you’ll thank us.”
We found a pair of seats just as the director walked out on the small stage for the opening announcements. Then the lights dimmed. The overture began. I knew Thing1 would quickly recognize Bugs Bunny music, but would it be enough to turn the tolerance to enthusaism? Again he blessed me with a tolerant smile when I mentioned it.
Then the overture ended. A prince fleeing a dragon ran on stage only to be saved by three ladies whose amorous attentions would make Pepe La Pew blush. I heard a chuckle next to me. The prince awake to discover a new friend dressed in a bird costume. The show progressed, and the chuckle turned to laughter.
Score one for the parents with a huge assist from community theater, I thought, and my smile had nothing to do with the play. For the next two hours we absorbed a near-ancient music, rife with humor and beauty. When it was over, we leapt to our feet with the rest of the audience. Without thinking, Thing1 turned to me and said, “That was really good. I’m glad I saw it.”
I know I’m lucky. My kids enjoy a lot of the same art and music we like – groups like the Beatles and Rolling Stones, live theatre – which is a lot more fun (and easier) than leaving them home with a sitter. But we’re still fighting the TV and video game conundrums every parent faces. Thing1, especially, has recently acquired the crazy idea that he should think for himself. Getting him to embrace the concept of better living through listening to his parents’ more moth-eaten ideas about music and art is increasingly challenging. Once in a while, though, we get something more than a tolerant smile. I get a laugh or I see a spring in his step that says he appreciates our occasional cultural dictatorship – even if he won’t admit it to our faces. And every once in a while it’s nice not to have to wait for someday for the gratitude.