Thing1 bestowed his first real smile on me when he was about six weeks old, and it was the most intoxicating thing I’d ever seen (This isn’t just my maternal bias talking either… Maybe just a little).
It didn’t take Thing1 long to figure out that his toothless smile could illicit the most effusive displays of adoration from family or friends or little old ladies on the train. “He’s such a sunny boy,” our German neighbor would tell us in heavily accented English. I’ll admit it – having people fawn over my firstborn like that, went to my head. So, wanting to share what we’d created with the world, I sent a photo of him and his toothless grin to a modeling agency. A few weeks later I got a reply from an agency in Albany (we had moved to Vermont by then) saying he was very cute, and how did we feel about driving to Boston or New York for jobs?
The Big Guy and I already knew how we felt about driving with Thing1 for trips longer than an hour (the Big Guy was already an expert on brands of hearing protection), and Thing1’s showbiz career ended before it began. Seeing the man that Thing1 is becoming tells me we made the right decision. He’s still my sunny boy, but, at twelve, he balks at any clothing that isn’t first and foremost comfortable (clean is optional), and he’s currently working on his entry for the Guinness Book’s Most Reluctant Snapshot subject.
Thing2 is another story. He is just as sunny but his photo isn’t at an agency. The only theatre he’s been a part of was a children’s workshop at our local community theatre and arts center, Hubbard Hall. And, even though I long ago decided my being a Stage Mom wouldn’t work for our family, Thing2 has turned me into one. It was a point he made decidedly last night when he came home from school.
It was the end of a short week, thanks to MLK day, and a traveling children’s theatre company was visiting Thing2’s school. They were recruiting actors for an upcoming workshop and performance and hoped to inspire the kids with a makeup demonstration. The makeup artist scanned the audience for potential victims, but Thing2 had already volunteered.
He was picked to be the second model and had some time to think of what he wanted. A recent trip to Boston has turned him in to a style maven, and he was already dressed up in a button down shirt, tie and vest. He wanted the creation to work with his outfit, and when the makeup artist suggested giving him a black-eye, Thing2 latched on to it. He was still struggling to contain his delighted wriggling when he came home, determined to trick me into thinking he was really hurt.
The joke was just about worn out by dinner – he had come to each of us saying Thing1 had given him the black-eye – and I thought he might be tiring of his schtick. But by dessert he had recharged – his marred eye twinkling with devilish delight as he dove into his watermelon. I grabbed a quick pick, hoping preserving the scar in photos would be enough to convince him the show was over, and he needed to wash his face. When his nighttime bathroom routine was over, however, he came back to the table with clean teeth, clean hands, and a face that had been scrubbed hard almost everywhere. But not quite everywhere.
Thing2 wanted to save his scar to show his friends at basketball practice, and, as thrilled as we were at the idea of our child flaunting a fake black-eye in front of a rightly suspicious world, we gave in. Like most of his characters and costumes, this will run its course, and he’ll be on to the next act before the weekend is over. And, while I’m sure there will be a few shocked whispers when we walk into Bob’s Diner this morning, I am okay with that.
His commitment to his craft is my daily reminder to not let the fear of those whispers govern whether or not we live or half-live out our lives. Thing2 instinctively seems to understand that the world is a stage, and he is ready to play on it, exploring as many parts as he can. So now, to my surprise, I have become a stage mom, and it’s turning out to be quite the education.