They stand in front of me. I am seated in section one, row one, an audience of one.
They announce their performance. I clap as the music begins along with their routine. Rehearsal just finished in the back bedroom not more than five minutes before. The moves: half-Disney, half-six-year-old, twist, twirl and leap before me.
While I watch my daughters I ooh and ah, clap my hands, all smiles and encouraging nods (moms are great at encouraging nods, aren’t they?) But inside it is hard to watch. Much like a bad American idol tryout, I want to cringe and turn away. The shaking and flopping arms are awkward at best. But their little faces are all smiles, full of excitement to be the main event.
I refuse to turn away, so I nod again. Clap my hands. Smile back.
Sitting here while Megan Trainor (Kid Bop version) blares from the iPod, I am taken back twenty-four years ago to my childhood living room.
I am the excited young performer, and sitting in front of me is an audience of four, my parents and family friends. My friend and my sister stand next to me.
I Can Show You the World from the Aladdin Motion Picture Soundtrack begins to play from the boom box in the corner. The three of us dance and sing our magic carpet ride routine while our parents clap, sing to the music, never once looking away. They give us their full support and what is more, their full attention for the whole song. All four minutes and five seconds of shining, shimmering, splendid. They sit and watch even when we falter on the lyrics or miss our carefully choreographed handstands. Their eyes always on us, nodding for us to get up and keep going.
As my daughters’ performance comes to an end I realize that, like my parents before me, I am giving my children more than these three short minutes of my time, I am giving them encouragement to continue when they falter or fall. I am giving them permission to act silly and awkward and know that I won’t look away. Not because I am blind to it but because I see so much more in each of them.
Oh, how much our kiddos need this today: our unwavering support and love. With club-this and junior- competitive-that. With pressures of social media and everyone watching all the time. They need to know it’s okay to fail and fall and yes, to be goofy and gawky. Most important they need to know that their parents won’t look away or be embarrassed by them.
To all you Moms and Dads sitting in the living room, the bleachers, the sidelines, and stands. For those of you in the audience, and crowd, keep that head nodding, and those hands clapping. One day, your children will realize that their ability to be brave, bold, and courageous was fostered by you, right here, this very day. And they will remember you never looked away.