Saturday, March 09, 2013

Listen to Your Instincts

Until recently, I have managed to audition for only one thing in my entire life -- the fourth grade choir.

And it was a miserable experience. Every other fourth grader in my school got to audition in groups of 5 or 6. Yet because I was absent the day auditions were held, I had to do a make up audition by myself. Me. The kid who was so painfully shy she did not speak a word until high school (and Bartles & Jaymes unlocked that vault). I remember nothing of the audition but sheer terror, barely singing above a whisper and completely botching it.

(While not an audition, I also tried out for the junior high track team years later. Which featured another greatest hit: I so aggressively wound up for the discus throw and built up so much momentum that when I let the discus fly, it took me with it, and I landed in a heap on the ground in front of the track coach who was unsuccessfully trying to hide her laugh behind her clipboard.)

So, as you can imagine, I've never equated auditions with "comfort" or "success" or "staying upright."

And even though my path has taken me down the road of public speaking numerous times and I'm now proud to have two humor speaking engagements under my belt, these things came to me. I did not have to actively seek them or compete against others for the opportunity.

So it was astonishing that when I first learned of the Listen to Your Mother program being held in DC last year, I knew I had to try out. This year. (With the kind of track record (heh) I've had, you'd need a year to mentally prepare, too.)

After scheduling my audition time, writing my piece and rehearsing it, I headed to the appointment on the morning of truth and had this actual conversation with my husband on the way out the door:

Him: "Where is this audition being held?"
Me: "A hotel room at a hotel near the airport."
Him: "Well that sounds perfectly legitimate. Good luck."

I shared this little story with the Producer and Director when it was my turn to audition, and the show producer said, "To be fair, this set-up is a little weird, you auditioning right in front of a hotel bed. At least we don't have the camera aimed at you like we did last year."

I believe it was at that moment I knew I really liked these women.

Which is good, because auditioning in front of only two people while sitting down is much harder that doing a presentation in front of a hundred people. (Even when Jim is your co-presenter.)

But hey -- I got through it. Then waited two weeks. Then found out I did not get selected.

Silver lining? I am now virtual friends with the Show Producer -- a woman whose blog I've been a fan of for some time. And I also really enjoyed meeting the very talented Show Director.

Most of all, I love that I got to toss this audition into a conversation with my daughter about the magic of saying "yes" to things and how you don't regret the "yeses" but you sometimes regret the "nos." (Ed. This will never apply to dating.)

I'm so proud I did this, so glad to have met a couple of great women as a result, and so excited to attend the LTYM show in Arlington on April 28th. And believe it or not -- excited to audition again next year.

P.S. I stayed upright, too.

By the way, the essay I read at my audition is below:

Hello My Honey…Hello My Baby….
Last Tuesday was my daughter’s first day of kindergarten.

And just as expected, there was a sleepless night the evening before, nervous anticipation about what the new teacher and classroom would be like, and inevitably, a few tears during the drop off.

But I’m OK now, thanks.

My daughter is attending kindergarten at the same place she’s gone to preschool for the past two years. She knows and loves the director and teachers and has lots of good friends there. Everything is familiar and comfortable and she tells me all the time that she loves going to school.

Actually, she says, “I love going to school, Sir,” as she has taken to calling me “Sir” lately.

Please do not look to me for explanation.  

But with the transition to kindergarten, some fundamental parts of the routine are changing: there is no nap time, lunch is not provided so the children have to bring their own, and there are some kids she does not know who will be joining the class. My husband and I have learned that sometimes with our daughter, things that are unfamiliar equal the transformation into a very shy child that we don’t recognize.

To put it more succinctly: I gave birth to Michigan J. Frog.

Do you remember this character from the old Looney Tunes cartoons? The frog with the cane and top hat that would dance and sing ragtime hits? In the cartoon, the man who discovered this frog’s talent hoped to make a fortune from it, yet every time he tried to get the frog to perform for others, the frog would simply sit there and ribbit. 

While we don’t (necessarily) hope to make millions from our daughter, we do sometimes wish she’d perform consistently. At least that way, we’d always know what we were dealing with.

This is the kid who received a preschool progress report that noted “talking in class” and “disrupting nap time by being social with her friends” as areas in need of improvement. The same kid who told me to leave when I returned prematurely from an errand because she was holding court with her grandparents. The kid who is anything but shy while she entertains her dad and me every single night with plays, performances, monologues and dancing.

(More often than not, these performances end with her pulling her pants down and mooning us. While I hate to encourage this behavior, I have to give her credit: this kid knows her audience. The move always brings down the house.)

Yet in some unfamiliar situations, our little extrovert will often be rendered mute, burrow into my shoulder and refuse to respond to other people. While I personally don’t mind it, I find that other people generally prefer two-way conversations.

My husband and I assumed that our best course of action to prevent her morphing into the frog on her first day was to prepare her for the ways in which kindergarten would be different from preschool. We were particularly worried about the elimination of nap time and broached the subject very gently, thinking this bit of information may likely cause a great upset in her small world. We shouldn’t have worried. When I said, “I have to let you know that in kindergarten, you don’t have naps anymore.” She replied, with a huge, dramatic sigh, “I’ve been waiting for that all my life.

That first day, armed with her Hello Kitty lunch box, her new school supplies and wearing an ensemble she had pulled together: (tie dye leggings, a wool plaid skirt and a bedazzled t-shirt), we walked into school. And I braced for what I thought was her guaranteed metamorphosis from confident extrovert to 40-pound growth on my body.

But guess what? Instead, she immediately took charge — directing me to where the “big kids” cubbies were, putting her things away, and purposefully striding into her new classroom ready to tackle the new school year. She immediately hugged her best friend, posed for the obligatory photo on which I insisted, and then busied herself exploring the new classroom and working the room.

Any reservations I had about the year dissolved instantly. In fact, she was having such a good time I didn’t think she heard me when I told her to have a great day and that I loved her. As I turned to leave, I started to get a little verklempt because it seemed that she did not need me in this somewhat uncertain situation.

And that is exactly the moment she ran up behind me, hugged me, and said brightly,

“I love you, too, Sir.”

# # #


Sarah said...

That is so sweet! Those ladies missed an opportunity with you. Congratulations on getting out of the shell. I am still FIRMLY ensconced.

Brutalism said...

Sarah - No, YOU'RE sweet. The whole thing was a good experience. You need to do it.

dilettante07 said...

That, sir, was one damn fine essay.