Who Wants to be a Who?

After her audition, my fourth grade Hannah was positive that she would get a big part in Seussical the Musical—the spring show at her school. We both were. But when I picked her up one afternoon, I could see on her face that things had not gone as we planned.

“I have to be a stupid Who!” she cried through disappointed tears. “It’s embarrassing!
A Who is the worst part you can get! You just stand in the background and hum and sway!” I didn’t know what to say. I let her get it all out.

“You know who else got Who parts? People who cried or ran off stage during their audition…people who had to stop and start or who read like robots…even people who declined to audition at all!” she informed me. I had to admit, it did seem insulting.

As my little girl’s heart broke right before my eyes, I was flooded with feelings of sadness and pity. She told me how she’d wanted to cry when they told her she’d be a Who, but she had to hold it in. How all of her other friends got bigger parts. How everyone was trying to make her feel ok with her Who-ness.

I wanted to go to the teachers and ask them what they were thinking and tell them to fix it immediately! I called Hannah’s dad instead. He was very upset for her, too. “Well you need to write a note or make an appointment with that teacher! Or just tell her not to be in the play! Or I know..I’ll go talk to him,” he told me. I explained that I didn’t think this was something for us to interfere in and that I felt the lesson here was that sometimes things don’t go our way, but we have to find a way to make the best of it. He begrudgingly went along.

So I gave my Hannah the rest of the evening to complain and be sad (and she took full advantage of it!). The next morning, she was still very upset. On the car ride to school, I told her all the mom stuff you’re supposed to say about this happening for a reason and how she will have to accept it and do her best. She really didn’t seem receptive. I told her I wasn’t letting her quit, so it was going to be a long couple of months if she chose not to get on board with her Who part.

When I picked her up that afternoon, she said to me, “Well, I guess I’ve decided being a Who isn’t so bad and I’ll just have to accept it.” I told her I was glad she was feeling better. “Yeah some of the fifth graders told me not to feel bad because last year in the Jungle Book musical, some of them had to be rocks and grass. A Who is better than rocks and grass,” she told me. I told her how proud I was of her.

And it’s true. A Who beats the pants off of rocks and grass.

Photo by: dctheatrescene.com

Can We Put Them in a Bubble? (Spoiler: We Can’t)

For Christmas, I gave my ten year old Hannah a journal titled “Just Between Us: a no-stress, no-rules journal for girls and their moms”. We both like to write and I thought it would be a fun thing for us to pass back and forth. It was full of questions and topics for us to write about. There were also blank pages labeled “Free Space” and it was what I read in that free space one Sunday night that broke my heart in two.

She had been too scared, embarrassed and ashamed to tell me that a “friend” had been telling her wildly inappropriate things at school. She wrote that she felt like she couldn’t be a kid anymore and she couldn’t ever un-know what she now knows. I had to find out what she knew. Gulp.

Turns out she knew more than 18 year old me knew! I cannot even blog about the things this girl told her. They are TEN YEARS OLD. I was so enraged, I wanted to flip out, start yelling, go completely insane and call that girl’s mother immediately. But I had to keep it in so that Hannah didn’t feel even more self-conscious. So that she knew she could talk to me. So she knew she had nothing to feel ashamed of. So that she knew that everything was ok.

I sat there with my baby girl and went over each and every thing this disturbed little freak had told her. I smoothed them over one by one, struggling to put each one in the appropriate context for a ten year old. All the while I was imagining grabbing the other girl by her curls, dragging her to her mother and insisting she get her some counseling.

The next day, I spoke to the mother and she was apologetic. When the girl called to apologize, I made sure both she and her mother heard me tell her thank you for the apology (although honestly, I really wanted to say you can stuff your sorries in a sack) but that it’s best if they go their separate ways now and keep their distance. In other words, stay away from my kid!

Life’s innocence and simplicity seemed to have vanished…but I thought about the good that came from this. I learned how to handle sticky conversations. And I learned that my daughter feels close enough to me to trust me with her deepest darkest feelings and concerns. She learned that I will be there when she needs me. These are the positives.

I hate that she knows that stuff. She hates it, too. For days afterward, we were shaken. We discussed it in the car on the way home from school. I told her pretty soon it would fade because we don’t have minds that focus on things like that. We are too busy growing toward the sun! We are going to resume thinking about kittens, cupcakes and rainbows! I looked in my rear view mirror and saw her laughing when I said that. But she did not disagree.

So that’s what we’ll be doing.