Between recovering from the Roadtrip from Hell, and having the kids off on spring break for the past week, it’s been chaos around here. But everyone went back to school today, and we are back to our standard routine. Having a week off with the kids was fun, and tiring. It reminded me just how much I need to plan ahead for this summer to keep them occupied and to stave off boredom. But that’s a story for another time.
A couple of weeks ago Brendan had a program at school. At first, we didn’t even know about it. Nothing had come home, and we didn’t have the March events calendar yet which would have listed it. The first time we heard about it was when we were finalizing our plans for our road trip. Brendan mentioned that he had a program at school the day we were scheduled to leave. Some parents may have said forget it and had their child miss the program anyway, and the thought did cross my mind, but our past experiences with programs changed my mind.
Brendan has had two other programs, one was in kindergarten and one was in first grade. In kindergarten it was a play based on the book Click Clack Moo. The program was held at 9:30 in the morning in the kindergarten classrooms. At that time we were not signed up to get the school newsletter and events calendar via email (because we didn’t know that was an option), and Brendan was notoriously bad about bringing paperwork home from school (who am I kidding, he still is). So we didn’t find out about the program until the day before it happened.
Well, at that point Matt and I were both working full time still and both had things that prevented us from being able to take the day off work that day. Brendan was a little sad that we were going to miss his program, but we tried to make him understand how important it was to notify us of this stuff in advance. He wasn’t scarred too badly by the experience. He still remembers doing the program, but seems to have forgotten that we weren’t there.
In first grade he did another program, this one based on the story The Groucy Ladybug. For this one they would be acting out the story, and singing some songs that went along with what was happening in the story at the time. By first grade we were receiving most of our notifications via email so we knew well in advance about the program. They’d be holding the program twice, once in the morning (a practice run for the students) and once in the evening (the TRUE performance.). Parents were welcome to attend the morning performance, but (at the time) I didn’t see any need to take off work for it since I’d be seeing it again that night.
Everything was set for us to attend the program. Then Matt found out he’d be travelling for work the week of the program and would have to miss it. Brendan was very disappointed. But I promised to videotape the performance for Matt, so that Brendan could show it to him when he got back from his trip. Later I found out his teacher was recording it, and if we brought in a blank DVD she’d provide us all with copies. That was perfect, because then I could sit back and enjoy the performance, and be assured that her camera would be set up at the optimal angle.
As I watched the program I noticed that quite a few kids had lines to speak. Some were long, and some were just a few words. Some kids spoke multiple times, and some not at all. Brendan was a non-speaker. I was a bit perturbed by this. No matter what, there weren’t enough lines to give one to every single first grader, but they could have spread them out a bit more in my opinion. I never like to see Brendan left out, and from my perspective that was exactly what was happening.
Towards the end of the performance Brendan started looking a little green under the lights on the stage. I thought maybe it was my imagination, but the longer I watched him the more I became convinced that something was wrong. After the program I met him at the foot of the stage and he was definately green. As it turned out he had locked his knees while standing on the risers and had made himself queasy and feeling like he was going to pass out. I got him a drink of water and just sat with him for a few minutes. When he felt better we went home.
When you put your first child through elementary school there’s a learning curve to how things work. I never pursued anything with the whole leaving Brendan out of the performance because he didn’t seem upset by it and I didn’t want to make waves when he wasn’t hurt. Now I’m very glad I didn’t do anything because I’ve found out how they determined which kids spoke in the performance. They ask the kids who WANTS to speak in the performance, then break up the lines as much as makes sense to give as many kids the opportunity to perform as possible. So Brendan didn’t have a speaking part because he didn’t volunteer for one.
That changed in third grade. Brendan had evidently been very keen on getting a speaking part in the performance, and his music teacher obliged him. Once I learned he would actually have a speaking part, there was no doubt in my mind that we would be staying home an extra day to see his performance. They also felt that by this age the kids should be able to memorize their lines.
Brendan’s part was sent home to us the day after he told us about the performance. I stared at it in disbelief. This big part that he was so excited about was exactly one line. But it made him happy, and I figured that one line wouldn’t be too hard for him to learn. Boy was I wrong. This one tiny little line had a whole lot of big words in it, and Brendan had a really hard time remembering how to say those big words. We spent almost two weeks going over it each and every day. Finally one day it clicked and he knew it by heart.
Like his first grade performance they held a dry run in the morning along with the actual performance in the evening. Brendan made sure this time to let me know how important it was to him to have me be at both performances. And since I don’t work any more I was finally able to make his wish come true. Once Matt heard that he made sure to take Thursday off anyway, even though we weren’t leaving town until Friday, so he could also attend both performances. I’ve never seen Brendan happier than when he heard we’d both be going to both performances.
Thursday morning we got to the school about 15 minutes before the performance. Unfortunately it turned out that some people at the school weren’t communicating when they made up the activities schedule because the kindergarten classes were having Muffins with Mom at the same time the third graders were performing their program. So parking was a nightmare. But we made it on time and got to see the musical performance Mighty Minds for the very first time. Brendan’s line looked to be about halfway through the program.
The program was really very cute. It was all about test anxiety and what kids might be feeling and going through as a big test approaches. The songs all had little hand motions to go with them, and some of the kids they got to do lines were really very funny. Finally it was time for Brendan to speak his line. Being as tall as he is, Brendan is always on the top row of the risers. But they’d stuck him on the end to help facilitate him climbing down to perform his line.
As he got to the bottom of the risers and started across the stage, he tripped and went sprawling. I closed my eyes, unable to watch, worried how the unexpected trip would impact his confidence and ability to perform. Through closed eyes, I heard the line that had become all too familiar to me over the past few weeks.
“Ladies and gentlemen! Faster than the golden snitch in a game of Quidditch, more accurate than Einstein, more poetic than Shakespear, less offensive than a dangling participle, it’s Mighty Minds.”
I couldn’t believe it. He’d done it perfectly. He didn’t seem bothered at all by the fact that he’d tripped in front of about 150 students and 50 or so parents. When I was his age if that had happened to me I would have melted into a puddle right there on the floor and not been able to continue with my performance. My heart swelled with pride and I was almost in tears with happiness.
After the morning performance we all went over and told Brendan what a good job he did before he went back to class. I also stopped to congratulate the music teacher on a job well done, and to thank him for giving Brendan a part in the performance. Once the music teacher learned who I was (we hadn’t ever introduced ourselves before) he very enthusiastically told me how proud of Brendan he was as well. He apparently specifically chose Brendan for the line that he did because of the big words. He knew Brendan could handle learning them.
I learned a lot about his music teacher in that brief conversation, and he earned my respect almost instantly. In the back of my mind I will always worry that some teachers will sell Brendan short because he has an IEP on his record which identifies him as a special education student. But every time I meet a teacher who sees him for his abilities versus his disabilities it builds my confidence in our education system.