Wednesday, February 29, 2012

A Rose By Any Other Name

Morrigan is taking an acting class, which suits her dramatic nature nicely. Tonight is the performance night where the parents will be treated to the fruits of their labor: a 15 minute play. This is Roanoke so we naturally know a number of the other parents [Don't let me forget to share Tim's theory about how the 'Noke is just like The Simpsons someday.] and one Mom decided to organize a dinner out after the show. Perfect! It just happens to be a Mom of whom I don't see nearly enough.

Ah but then the emails started about the flowers. One Mom inquired if the rest of us were bringing flowers for our little stars. I could not answer fast enough - NO NO NO! (I said it in a much more toned down way, but that was what was going on in my mind.) In the end, I was, as always with these kinds of things, in the minority, or all alone as the case may be. Everyone else is bringing at least a small bunch of flowers.

So Tim asked if I was going to change my plans, seeing as our child might be the sole performer who lacks material acknowledgement of her dramatic achievement. It might make me the worst Mom, but nope. You read it right.


Before I go into my, very compelling, explanation of why I don't want to buy flowers, even in the face of overwhelming peer pressure, I'm gonna give y'all a disclaimer. I'm a-ok with being the only one who shows up empty handed. And I'm not judging those who do otherwise - I don't presume to tell you how to live your life. But I have a reason, hopefully one my daughter understands or at least will someday.

What makes things wonderful is that they are special. Scarcity.

My childhood understanding of the relationship between flowers and the theater was that the leads received them, on opening night, and mostly on Broadway. By comparison, what Morrigan is in tonight is a 15 minute play that was the result of a six week acting class. Shoot, I performed monologues that long in high school drama and the idea of flowers never crossed my mind.

But what is the harm, you say. The kids love it. And they do love it but when you receive flowers every time you set foot on a stage, it ceases to be special, or rare, or a treat. It is expected. What once was a great prize becomes something you only notice when you are without it. Flowers are the baseline, the lack of, is austerity.

I was reading the blogger Suburban Matron the other day and she was writing about a martial arts belt ceremony and said, "I don't know, but I wonder if when this crop of kids actually achieves something, like graduation from medical school, if they'll be like, yawn, I walked under an arch of swords when I got my yellow belt."

Because it isn't just flowers at drama or dance recitals, it is the way we, and I mean us parents, have tried to turn everything into the-end-all-be-all, the most incredible moment of our kids' lives. The desire to turn each downright average thing they do into a chance to remind them that they are a special little flower, unique and loved.

Our Tae Kwon Do instructor the other day at the belt testing referenced the ice cream, treat or bribe we had all promised our children. My kids turned to look at me expectantly. Was this true? Because before Mr. Big Mouth put the idea into their heads, the reward for moving up a belt level was MOVING UP A BELT LEVEL. Which was exactly what I told them on the way home. I was very pleased they did so well and was overjoyed that I was the proud mother of two green belts. But we didn't need to fete each step on the path. Maybe when you are black belts we'll get a cone.

Don't get me wrong, my kids are special little flowers and I love them. I tell them I love them each and every day. Not just the good days. No matter how rough the day, how pissed off they've made me, we close it out with I love you. They will not, or should not, want for love.

At the same time, I think we've tried to build our kids, and their self esteem, up by celebrating everything as precious when sometimes the things themselves should just be their own reward. What makes being in a performance great? It is the joy of being on stage and entertaining. It is the thrill of being up there, without a net, doing it all live. I want to teach my kids to savor and enjoy the moments they live for what they are. To take pride in a job well done without spending your time looking over the horizon for a trophy, flowers or ice cream rewards.

All of which, in all likelihood, will be lost on a ten year old. So why not take the easy way out, the path of least resistance, the trip to the florist? Because I trust my kids will get it someday. It might not be theater, but someday, they will achieve in an endeavor, and the true victory will taste all that much better. And hopefully, they will have enjoyed all the other steps on the path for the joy they brought along the way.


  1. Well said! I am right there with you. At the beginning of the school year they handed out certificates to the kids who excelled in the State standardized tests, the one you have to pass to move from 3rd to 4th grade. I thought the 'reward' was going to 4th grade - guess I was wrong - they needed their name called out and a piece of paper.

    Glad I'm not the only mom out their who feels this way...

  2. Amen, sister. Amen. (I too loved Becky's comment re the yellow belt. She is so so clever. Glad you're reading her!)