Thursday, November 13, 2008

Tales of a Third Grade Extra

Marley has been cast as Mrs. Gloop, the mother of Augustus Gloop, in her class production of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. She had her heart set on the role of Veruca Salt but seemed to accept yesterday her given role.

That was yesterday. Today, after the play meeting, she dissolved into hysterical tears. She doesn't want to wear a padded costume (the Gloops are a hefty family), she doesn't want to take German language classes (I tried to explain she just had to say her lines with an accent), she was upset that she NEVER gets an important part, and the ultimate insult? She doesn't think she is going to be one of the children chosen to wear a mic.  (She might get mic'd but without knowing for sure I wasn't going to get her hopes up.)

Seriously. What's a mom to do? The third graders get the "bigger" parts. The kinders are going to be candy, the first graders and a few second graders are the Oompa Loompas and all the other roles are divided among the rest of the second and third graders. Marley is not the best actress or singer of the bunch. She got an appropriate role. She got a role with more lines than the previous year. But she is devastated.

This is no my strong suit as a parent. On one hand, I understand why she is upset. Getting to wear the mics is something all the children covet. She's not stupid; she knows that Mrs. Gloop is not a key role. She wants to be a star. On the other hand, every person can't be the star. There are other kids who are more talented--or at least louder. She is a part of a community and this is not the first time she is going to be disappointed with her part, whether it be on stage or in life. Do I tough love it or just lend a sympathetic ear.  Do I do some combination of both?

I probably spent 10 minutes just watching her cry and feeling a combination of helpless and frustrated. Finally, I pulled out the big guns: bribery. I know, I know, it is the evil parenting technique designed to spoil your children and give them a sense of entitlement that will hinder their every relationship.

BUT (watch me defend myself here)...

This is not a common practice of ours.
This is not an everyday experience of hers.
I didn't know what else to do.

I told her that I understood why she was upset, but that the director gives out the roles and there is nothing we can do about it. I said we could talk to her teachers so they at least knew she was sad; however, her teachers would not change her role. I told her that if she cooperated with her part, practiced saying her part in a German accent, cooperated with the padded costume, and exhibited a good attitude, we would buy her a new Nintendo DS game.

She sobbed and sniffed a little more, but it wasn't too long before she started quizzing me. Could it be a new game and not a used game? Could it be any game she wanted? Could we go get it today after we ran her lines?

Great. Another dilemma. Another parental cave in. After telling her that the point of a reward is to get it at the end so that her cooperation was insured, I decided that I couldn't take looking at her tear-streaked face. I am such a sucker. (Paul will agree with me.) We compromised and she knows that if, at any point, she doesn't cooperate, she will have the game taken away. (And I know I will follow through with that--no problem.)

As I type this, she is sitting on the living room floor trying to figure out how to buy another puppy on Nintendogs: Lab and Friends. In a few minutes, we'll run through her lines again. She needs to practice saying "I vant" instead of "I want." Wish us luck!

13 down, 17 to go


Anonymous said...

I'm so unprepared for this stage of parenting. But I do think that you've got a realistic idea of her skills and her limits and that's v. important.

Mel said...

Oh, and there's more to follow....

Ain't parenting FUN?!

Julie Pippert said...

I say...good for you. Redirect her attention to something important to her and focus her on earning and achieving that goal, with a tangible reward at the end.

I think it's brilliance because it refocuses her into her life and what she likes.

Indulging in a rampant amount of projection here...

I never particularly liked the performances. I think they're good skills (speaking in public, learning lines, working on a team project) and can make you feel good, but it can also be painful when you are never the really good one and get side bit parts of some sort (I often got "stage manager" so never even got to be on stage). Painful because then you don't per se get the best benefit, which is the experience but also the accolades and attention---which often aren't available in other ways.

You know what I mean when I say in a small pond the weirdest things are important to the pond as a whole, even if they aren't personally important to you, but they become important to you? And once out of the pond, you think "omg how silly was THAT!"

In school, in a moment, that play can seem like the most important thing in the whole world. The big stars are the most important people in the world. It sucks, feeling insignificant. And that can become a trend.

How lucky Marley is to have parents who make her feel important and significant and who give her an outside world, to keep perspective.

I hope somehow, while being long though trying to be brief, I've somehow conveyed what I mean, here.

evenshine said...

Theater for kids is great, and I'm all for it, but it's also hard to keep them from being bruised. It's one of the things any parent struggles with, I think, this dealing with the messy, hurtful outside world. Sounds like you did what worked for you guys. I bet she'll be great!

Anonymous said...

i'm pretty annoyed. at this age, kids' plays should not have huge and tiny parts. the teacher should not be putting them in this position.

Mary-LUE said...

SB - I do try to have a realistic view of her abilities. I have seen what happens to parents who don't. At the same time I hope I don't underestimate her.

Mel - This is where that serenity prayer comes in handy.

Julie - First: it is good to "see" you here! I hope you are recovering from your last challenge at the same time I am sure you are gearing up for another! Second: I am with you on the skills vs. performance thing. In Marley's classroom environment, they are very good about deemphasizing the stardom. Every kid takes a bow. But human nature is human nature. Without Mrs. Gloop, the play is not the same, but being Mrs. Gloop instead of Veruca just doesn't feel good to her. Oy!

E - Yes, some kids get bruised by the experience. I am grateful that Marley's classroom environment is what it is. It is very nurturing and they deal up front with a lot of the issues that come up.

WotB - I didn't really understand when we got into Marley's multiage program about the play. It is a big deal. They hire a director who runs the children's rep theater in town and the kids work really hard. I see the benefits, but on my own, I probably wouldn't make that choice. Still, it is a longstanding tradition, the kids overall enjoy the experience, and I have seen Marley go from not being willing to even audition to really wanting to play a bigger part. It really is a mixed bag of benefits and drawbacks for me.

To everyone: One thing I was able to do last night was go through the script with Marley and show her that even though she doesn't have tons of lines, she has more than she ever has AND she is on stage for quite a bit of the time. Even when Mrs. Gloop isn't talking, she is up there, part of the whole group, quite a bit of the time. I also promised her that, even though her costume will have to be padded, we will make sure that she gets as much input into it as possible.

I am also grateful that the director chose to rearrange the script in such a way that Augustus and Mrs. Gloop don't leave until after the candy boat ride, instead of before. It keeps those two kids on stage and part of everything longer.

Marley left for school this morning in a good mood, ready to work with the director this morning. She had gone over her lines by herself before I even got up and ran through them once with me. I hope this means she has comes to terms with it all.

I will have a private conversation with her teachers to have them keep an eye on her, look for signs that she is upset, etc.

Anonymous said...

Wow. I don't know what I would have done. I'm kind of a hardass when it comes to disappointments. Or I bribe with ice cream sundaes, another dangerous pitfall

My daughter gets chosen for a speaking part in everything they do at her school, I think primarily because she is one of the few good readers in first grade. The class is small enough that I am sure the other children are going to notice and be hurt soon if not already. Something to think about.

Shari said...

Lol! Wow, so this is what I have to look forward to in future years, huh? I'm already experiencing the first bit of discipline with Maisy. She keeps wanting to throw things. The first couple of times, I would give the item back to her. Now I take it away, the very first time she throws it. She dissolves on the ground in tears. I pick her up and tell her "no throw" and she pats me on the back, while sniffling. It's the most precious moment in the world to me because I know that I'm shaping her future ways. I had a dad who gave out anger as a consequence instead of real-life non-emotional consequences, so I'm determined to try and stay focused on that good discipline. But we'll see. I know it's going to be SO hard as she gets older and older.