Grumpy about the music recital

Yeah, fun times at the elementary school music recital today. It’s sweet and all, but really, the quality of the show was, well… I’m not sure there’s a polite way to say it.

Bad. It was bad. These kids can’t sing.

But whatever. Still cute. Except for second grade. They came streaming onto the stage and right in the middle of the front row was some crazy girl fiddling with her crotch. I don’t know exactly what was going on, but it was clear the fly was down on her skinny jeans. After spending some time doubled over doing something, she finally gave up and got the music teacher Mrs. Scharnick’s attention, and they worked this thing out.

The performance started in earnest, out of tune, stilted, cute, and I couldn’t help but notice that this crazy-ass girl in the front row was still acting up. I was really distracted by her. Now she was leaning sideways so she could see past Mrs. Scharnick’s body and eye the audience, and then she started gesturing. I finally figured out that she was miming someone taking pictures with a camera. She was really persistent about it. I guess she wanted someone in the audience to take her photo. I thought, wow, that girl’s either weirdly delusional or really ill-mannered.

So then that settled down and I was able to focus on the, uh, delightful performance unfolding before my eyes. It really was sweet. They were singing songs about the sea and fish and stuff like that. Then a handful of second-graders got confused about when to stand up and sit down, and sure enough, the little girl in front stood up alone at a random moment, looked around, saw her mistake, and shot back down with her face buried in her hands, crying. Jeez. Right up front making a small scene. That went on for a couple minutes until Mrs. Scharnick bent over and said something, and then the girl settled down for the rest of the recital.

There’s no punch line here. You already know that was my Jesse. When the show was over I found her as the kids marched out. Parents aren’t supposed to talk with their kids as they head back to class, but Jesse and I get all kinds of dispensations. She saw me and came running over. I dropped to my knees and held her as she buried her head on my shoulder and cried. I said uninspired sweet nothings and, when she seemed calm enough, sent her on her way. She bucked up and wandered off. What else could I do?

When I picked Jesse up after school, she told me she was really embarrassed about standing up at the wrong time. I told her a lot of other kids made the same mistake and that I didn’t think it was embarrassing at all, just cute and silly, and the other kids didn’t seem to be embarrassed. To which Jesse responded without rancor, “I know that, mommy, but I felt embarrassed.”

Fair enough. This simple self-awareness is one of Jesse’s finest qualities. She never seems to hide from the truth of herself. She’s acutely aware that she acts and reacts differently than most other kids in certain important ways, that she’s more anxious than most people, but she won’t let me or anyone else swap in the majority’s superficial social cues for her own natural feelings. She’s working hard on adjusting, coping, changing her emotional and behavioral patterns; but I don’t think she’ll ever be able to wear a veil. I’m confident that this quality is perceived by many educators and grown-ups as a developmental abnormality, a challenge to be overcome, but I don’t accept that. I think her honesty is a beautiful, spectacular thing. It’s making her journey harder now, because children are expected to fit into a very limited set of molds. But I’m optimistic that somewhere down the road, in maybe 30 or 40 years, it’ll serve her well.

Until then, add a note to my parenting guidebook: elastic-waist pants for all future performances.

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