My nephew starred in his school play recently. Ezra’s elementary school celebrated Arbor Day with a play, and then planted a fairly good-sized tree in the school courtyard. I moved heaven and earth to attend this event, aligned a few planets, and then burst through time zones and broke traffic laws in order to arrive on time. Yet nothing could have prepared me for the way this young man captivated the audience with his charisma and well-memorized lines.
Ezra is incredibly charming and a veritable chatter-box at home. Yet, he comes by it naturally! His four sisters upstage him more often than not, as girls are inclined to do. I never realized that his sweet and gentle spirit would be so easily be seen by the audience…somehow I thought it was reserved for his family.
After the paparazzi had retreated and the tree was planted, Ezra and I headed out for an afternoon on the town. It was the first time I’d ever signed a kid out of school. What a blast!
We had a bit of role reversal on the trip into town. Usually with my nieces and nephews, I listen to their diatribe, insert quick questions, nod lots and offer an opinion that may or may not match their parent’s. Smile. It’s always the finest entertainment to observe their responses to my opinions. Always. On this occasion, Ezra taught me a lesson that I’ll never forget. He began to tell me about his school buddy who, just before the play began, succombed to tears. His buddy’s Dad had been a no-show to the play. It crushed this kid in the worst way, and Ezra seemed to understand. Here’s the lesson though…
I was thinking of all the heroics I’d displayed in my effort to attend the play, and to be on time. I am currently neck-deep in a project at work and I essentially walked away at a critical time and just said, “My nephew has a play, and I need to be there.” I decided that I would let the chips fly and then I’d pick them out of the fan later on. (62 hours later…. ) It occurred to me that all Ezra understood was that I was there. That’s what mattered the most.
Ezra was emphatic that parents just don’t *get it*… that they have no idea how hard the kids had worked to memorize lines and attend countless 7:45 a.m. rehearsals. It occurred to me that he’s right. Parents, or adults in general, don’t process things the same way that kids do. They don’t typically rationalize in a way that extends grace to their parents. Thankfully they’ve no realistic idea of what’s coming at their parents (mortgage payments, car payments, deadlines galore…) when they voice their hopes and expectations.
A kid’s heart seems to have a single breaker switch: on or off. You’re either there at the play or you’re not.
Given that I have no children of my own, this is really the first time that I’ve felt this wonderful and humbling experience. To think that parents go through this emotional rollercoaster on a daily basis…it’s both exhilarating and wrenching. As I continued to listen to Ezra’s stories and gentle exploration of all his gifts and abilities I smiled and whispered “Grace!” to his parents. May they be able to be there in the times that count for this darling, heartbreaker-son of theirs.