Ashton's audition. I have no heart left. It melted.
I love the show, Parenthood. Do you watch it? The writing is honest and every episode makes my eyes water up at some point. I usually sit in the bed with Aaron and watch the show in our room after Hudson is asleep and our older boys are busy somewhere else in the house. When Parenthood is over, I'm known to find the boys and say things like, "I love you so much. You know you can always talk to us about anything, right. I mean anything. Like - drugs, beer, or if you want to be on the baseball team. You can even tell us if you fall in love with a recovering alcoholic while volunteering at the soup kitchen. I mean it. Anything. I love you so much and think you're incredible - and valuable. I believe in you. You know that, right? You know that?" Aaron stands there with his eyebrows reaching for the ceiling while I blabber on to the kids. Our oldest, who is adept at sarcasm, will interrupt my heart-gush and say something like, "Dad. Has she been watching Parenthood again?"
Whatever, family. Whatever.
We've spent the last month trying to figure out what extracurricular activities our kids are going to be involved in this fall. Our two middle kids are musical - they love to sing - love to perform - so I thought, "They should be in a musical at our community theater. They will love it." I also thought it would be a good experience - to be a part of a production once in their life. I think it's kind of magical to watch an empty, lifeless stage and a group of random people come together to create something new and vibrant. You start out with nothing but words on paper and a blank slate of a stage and somehow end up with The King and I. It's pretty remarkable.
When I pitched the idea that they audition for The Music Man, Ashton and Hayden were excited. It was an easy sell until a few days before the audition when I broke it to them that they would have to stand in front of strangers and sing - all by themselves. After explaining the audition process to them, they immediately revolted. Sad faces - whining - and lots of "I might dies" were uttered as they flailed around on the couch. When Ashton started blinking back tears it slayed us. "What are we doing? Should we force this?"
Aaron and I had to regroup. Isn't this one of the hardest aspects of parenting? Knowing when to push through and when to cave? I stood there asking myself the same question I've asked for the past 12 years of parenting: "WHO decided we were smart enough to do this?"
We formed a parent huddle, talked, argued, and name called a little while we tried to figure out whether we should "Jasmine" this or "Crosby" it. In the end, we decided to run the "Crosby." Break! We would hold our ground. They want to do this. They have been excited about it. They are simply...afraid.
We put on our game faces and faced the boys again.
It was a beautiful moment talking about fear - yet again - with our kids. It was really difficult to watch fear of the unknown grip our children and almost rob them of something they really wanted to be a part of this year.
We asked the boys if they would simply agree to start singing the songs we had picked out for them - to see if they enjoyed it. They reluctantly nodded their heads. "We only have to learn this tiny part today. We can work on the rest over the next few days." With long faces they agreed to give it a go. Hallelujah. Within a few minutes they were so in love with their songs - so eager to sit with us and sing - that they would not hear of only learning part of the song. No way. They forced Aaron to play their songs over and over until we had to beg them to let us call it a wrap for the day. They were smiling, confident, and joyful.
They had so much fun practicing, they initiated practice the next couple of days.
The night of the audition, I was a wreck for them. I agreed to audition too. This production will be life-encompassing for the next month, so if they received parts, I liked the idea of us doing this together.
Sitting in the dark theater, waiting for our names to be called almost made me insane. My stomach was in a tight knot when the director called my name. At first I was relieved to go before the kids. Even though it still makes me nervous, I've sang in front of people hundreds of times. I started out fine but at some point it hit me - OH MY GOSH. My kids are about to have to do what I'm doing. They will have to stand here. In front of people they don't know. And sing. This is awful! What have I done? I'm the worst mother ever. How could I encourage them to do something this terrifying? Halfway through my short song, with all of these thoughts racing through my head - I freaked. I was so nervous I ended my song with laughter. I quit singing and started laughing. Great, right? If Aaron had not been sitting there on the edge of the stage with his guitar - rock solid as always - I would have looked my kids in the eyes and screamed "RUN!"
Hayden's audition. Gotta love Journey.
The boys? They were not even fazed. They stood on the stage and confidently performed their little number while I tried not to hyperventilate for them. They were incredible!
And guess what? Ashton was cast as Winthrop in The Music Man! He's busy learning songs and perfecting his lisp. Hayden will be singing and dancing. I'll be making a fat fool of myself. My favorite.
This entire experience was great. When the boys changed their minds and started begging not to audition, we were instantly sweaty and not at all confident we were making the right choice by pushing them. Watching the boys bounce off the stage after auditions and BEAM when they found out they were in the play, I couldn't help but think - this is such a Parenthood moment. It feels exactly like when Crosby and Jasmine were trying to decide whether to push Jabbar into saying his lines in the school play.
The morals of this story?
Fear is intense. It is a liar.
When Parenthood goes off the air, how will we know how to parent our kids?
Parenting is ridiculously difficult and infinitely beautiful.