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July 16, 2003

Pains of Parenting

This was my evening for self-paced study, usually computer science, sometimes electronic design automation. I'd just done a run for one of my major vices, a medium Wendy's Frosty, and settled in to do my thing. Then I noticed the blinking message icon on my phone. It was Jean. She had received notice that Kelly was going to be in a play at her summer day camp tonight. The notice was not only short, but imprecise. Jean wasn't exactly sure when it would happen--"six or seven."

So I finished eating my dinner, brushed my teeth, and headed north to Willowbrook to see if indeed there was a performance going on. I found Jean, sitting on a towel in a clearing with several dozen other parents and grandparents. Kids were milling about, but Kelly was not visible yet. The theme was Greek myth, and we were treated to many loose interpretations of fables and plays, seemingly endless. Kelly had a small speaking part as the goddess Athena, gifting a mortal with a mirrored shield, and a few minor participatory roles such as being one of the dead folk in Hades.

Before it was all over I was bored to tears. I would have been happy to pop in for Kelly's parts and otherwise disappear. This is the curse of parenthood. The folks in charge pad their audience with unwilling participants by giving each child a small role, then trapping us all for the largely uninteresting acting of children.

Kelly fell into her bad girl ways, playing with a younger girl in the background of the stage when all the other children were sitting quietly, at most fidgeting. She was climbing on boxes, standing up on top of them and staring out into the audience, crawling around and generally being a distraction. At least she wasn't also shouting or talking over the dialogue. We had a rather severe talk with her after we got home.

One of my web friends told me that when she was young, she was 'whacked' for behavior that was winked at when displayed by boys in her class. She wanted to know if this was happening to Kelly. The answer, I think, is no. This play had many boys on hand, many of them younger than Kelly, yet they all managed to limit themselves to minor fidgeting, rather than leaping about in the background and being visibly disruptive. It's true that there is a danger of school officials trying to make Kelly act 'more like a girl', while allowing more leeway to boys, but I don't think that is the case here.

So I got two hits of pain tonight. Once sitting through the endless play, and once watching Kelly react to that same endless play in a manner more childish than many of her younger fellow campers.

Posted by dpwakefield at July 16, 2003 09:55 PM