Wednesday, April 23, 2008

A Star is Born - if only for the week

This past week was school vacation week. Since JJ's pre-school was open, I decided not to take the week off from work. So I needed to find something for Sweet Pea to do for the week. By coincidence, a parent of one of Sweet Pea's friends mentioned an introduction to musical theater "vacation week camp" at our local rec center. And the production for the week - High School Musical 2. They spend all week learning songs, dances and lines, and then on Friday, there is a performance.

When I mentioned this to Sweet Pea she was excited about it at first. Then when she heard about the performance she was less thrilled. Despite her "theatrics" at home, she is not one to like to be in the spotlight. And I use that term loosely. She doesn't like to do ANYTHING where she thinks all eyes will be focused on her, even if in fact all eyes are not focused on her. But this was High School Musical - perhaps she could get past the rest.

She went back and forth about wanting to enroll. Several of her friends were doing it so that was a big draw and of course they all LOVE high school musical. I was kind of indifferent about her doing it, though the price for the week certainly beat any other childcare options out there. I also thought that once she got there, she'd love it - the songs, dancing with her friends, even if the anxiety leading up to it would be torture for all of us.

So we made a deal. She would go the first day, and if she hated it, or just did not want to go back, we would make other arrangements for the rest of the week. I had no idea what the other arrangements might be - perhaps a day at work with her Dad, a day with me, and a day with her Nana. I did not mentioned this possibility to her or should would opted out right there and then. (She loves to go work with her Dad. She's actually never been with me.) But I did not want this to be a bad experience for her and if she didn't like it. I did not want her to feel forced to be there. I remember that feeling as a kid - it's lousy. Especially when its something that is supposed to be fun, not a "must-do."

The night before the first day she FREAKED out. And you know what the biggest issue was for her? She did not want to eat lunch there. Why, you ask? I have no idea. She had this problem in the beginning of kindergarten too. Lunch was an issue - she hardly ate. I told her I'd send anything she wanted but of course she didn't know what that would be. All this from a child who has been in daycare since she was 6 months old - most of it full-time. UHG!

In the midsts of her freaking out she was yelling, "Sign me off, Sign me off." It was so pathetic. So I reminded her of the "deal" and we agreed not to talk about lunch, at least not until the morning when I needed to pack it. She was okay the rest of the night - if you consider regressing to the point she had to sleep in our bed with us okay, something she has not done in...... I don't even know how long.

In the morning, she seemed surprisingly excited. I think the fact that the day was finally here was a big relief for her. (And another reminder for me that the anticipation of these things is usually WAY WORSE then when she actually has to go do it.) So off we went - early as usual since she cannot stand to be late. (She gets that from of my better qualities I think. Well, at least not one of my worst qualities.)

When we got there, we ended up going up and down steps trying to find the room they were in. By the time we found it, her friends had also arrived and off they went. I was slightly less than thrilled that the teachers were not there yet, as it was already 9 AM. Apparently they were stuck in traffic so one of the center's administrative staff were checking the kids in - if you can call it that. As a side, there is nothing like that feeling when you have just left your kid in the hands of complete strangers and you have to take the leap of faith that they'll be there when you get back. I mean, not that I have ever left them with complete strangers. It just feels that way. And it was the town rec center. They don't really qualify as strangers... Gulp.

So off I went to work.

When I got there to pick her up they were working on set designs, I think, if you can really call them that. I could see them through the window of the door to the gym they were in. She seemed okay. Perhaps a little bleary eyes and dazed from the long day. (They were full days, 9-4). When the kids were let out, we had to sign them out. (I felt much better now that clearly there was some tracking of the kids.) Her first response seemed positive. It has been a good time. We said good-by to her friends and headed off to the car. She showed me the script. I was impressed - this was serious stuff.

And then she freaked again. She had to practice all night long. And by "practice" she meant she had to learn the songs by reading them word for word. When I suggested perhaps we just listen to the CD she said, "That's cheating." Hum. And keep in mind, she already knows most, if not all the songs from seeing the movie a hundred times. It is now entirely clear to me she is beyond exhausted and completely incapable of being rational. So we decided to put it to rest for the night.

It was at this point I felt so guilty about doing this to her. She is an intense person. A nd a perfectionist. These kinds of activities, that are just supposed to be fun, are often not for her. And I guess I hadn't really thought about that.

So I gave her an out. But you know what, she didn't take it. She may be many things, but she is not a quitter.

And so she carried on through the week, and did great! She was exhausted, but excited about each next day. So much so that the anxiety about the performance seemed fleeting. Finally, my guilt was replaced with overwhelming pride for my daughter who over came her own anxieties to just have fun, and with my own personal satisfaction to have exposed her to something that she will look back on and feel a sense of accomplishment about.

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