Saturday, December 24, 2011

Did you know parenting is like going to the ballet?


I took my older boys to see The Nutcracker today. As I was driving home, furious, it dawned on me that the afternoon's adventure was a metaphor for parenting in general. Moments of transcendent beauty, laughter and love, bookended by moments of infuriating madness.

I was looking forward to it so much I ignored warning signals.

First, my husband was all up in my grill about how taking the boys to a professional ballet production, not a community production, makes me an elitist. I disagreed.

He also felt  my imagined blissful afternoon of Christmas Culture was unrealistic." I brushed this off because he's skeptical about almost everything in life.

About an hour before we were going to have lunch with a friend before the show, I started feeling really nauseous. But I took some Pepto and plowed ahead.

My six year old started things off badly by spitting, literally spitting, with anger, when I told him to put away the iPad that he was using while I finished getting ready. I was livid but determined to go to The Nutcracker, spitting six-year-old or not. I told him he could lose the ballet or the iPad for the whole weekend. He gave up the iPad.

Before the show - a moment of love
We arrived at the theatre and found our seats in the first tier, middle. Lovely view. During the show, the music, costumes and dancing transported us to another world of beauty and grace. But other moments brought home the fact that real life is neither beautiful or graceful.

I was driven to tears when my four year old kept kicking the chair in front of him to make his Jedi v. Sith shoes flash their lightsabers in the dark of the theater.

I was also moved to tears when Marie wept for her broken Nutcracker.

We were all completely underdressed.

But I forgot all that when the Snowflakes danced and I remembered a romantic evening at the Pittsburgh Ballet Ball with my husband and my kick-ass evening gown.

My six year old brought up Minecraft more than once. I told him I didn't want to hear it, I only wanted to think about the ballet.

After the Chinese dance, he practically leapt out of his seat laughing and clapping.

My four year old adored the Sugar Plum Fairy.

Then he asked loud enough for all to hear if the man dancing with her was a girl-boy.

The music was both familiar and majestic. So what if the lyrics from the Wonder Pets kept running through my head?

My four year old asked frequently why there was no talking in ballet. I thought to myself, "There's plenty of talking in this ballet." I had been explaining so much to each boy the lady in front of me turned around at intermission and asked me to quiet down.
After the show, 1 meltdown brewing

The experience ended rough when two tired boys bickered and fought the whole way home, almost ruining the memories and traditions I was trying to create. Almost.

I don't have perfectly behaved children. I have kids who act like goons and  geniuses. And they love me. More importantly, I love them. Maybe next year they won't make loud drinking noises during the ballet when their water cup is already empty. Or they might.

Merry Christmas!