For those of you who follow are friends with me on Facebook, you know that I just got back from an epic trip to New York where I got to see, not one, but two Broadway shows. My musical theater bucket is full!
While there, I couldn’t help but notice that at both shows, a number of parents had chosen to bring their kids. I overheard one mom saying this was what her child had asked for for her birthday. Another explained he wanted his kids to have exposure to the theater as they grew. Another couldn’t help asking her middle-school aged kids what they thought of the seats, the costumes, the actors, etc. And, as one might expect, the kids acted like kids at the show. Some cheered a bit too loud. There were definitely potty breaks. Lots of questions being asked. A few outbursts or muffled conversations.
Interestingly, I didn’t see any adults get visibly upset. No ushers came over to ask the parents to remove the children from the performance. I did see a few people greet the kids, smile at the parents, ask the kids what they thought, and otherwise interact with the children, but no overtly negative reactions.
It reminded me of when my oldest daughter went with her dad one year to see The Nutcracker Ballet at Christmas. She was quite young at the time. but she and her dad dressed in their finest; she even got put her hair in an up-do, and off they went. It was a long show. There were many in attendance, almost all older than her. While she loved being with her dad and seeing the show, she was also a preschooler so she wiggled and squirmed and squealed and giggled. She had to go to the bathroom. She got hungry and wanted snacks.
But when she got home, she beamed.
I asked her to tell me about it and all she could remember was the scene with The Rat King (Oooo…scary!). I asked my husband to tell me about it and much of what he could remember was her wiggliness. But then I asked if people seemed bothered by her and he said, “No. Actually I had a few people compliment me on bringing her to the ballet.” I posted an adorable picture of their date on Facebook and many similar comments were posted, things like, “So good that you are giving her this experience at such a young age” and “This is exactly what kids should be experiencing.”
Surprisingly, not one person commented, “Hmm, seems like a waste of money to me. I mean, did she even understand anything?” Nobody criticized us for forcing her to sit through a long performance filled with imagery and dialogue she couldn’t follow. No one complained about her fidgeting or her outbursts. And nobody questioned whether this was beneficial for her.
Because everyone recognized, it wasn’t about her understanding the “story” of The Nutcracker or her watching the ballet with a critical eye or even her sitting still through the performance.
Just like those parents who brought their kids to a Broadway show last week, it was about giving her an experience, a total package, filled with sights and sounds and smells and stories that could be felt and experienced even if they couldn’t be understood or comprehended.
I once had a mom share with me that the reason her kids didn’t always join us in Kids Church is because she wants to them to get to experience the traditional service at church, to hear the liturgy, to listen to the hymns, to be a part of a service that replicates the services that she grew up in and that have been part of their family’s tradition.