Wednesday, May 21, 2014

You're Right Choir Moms, I Was Crazy

It's almost dance recital time again. Madison is at a new studio this year, she's got two dances she's preparing for, and she loves dance class more than ever. I'm really hoping she actually does the dances in the recital this year, since she'll have quite a few fans in the audience, but it will be adorable either way.

I've been thinking back to last year, when I first reflected on being on the other side of the stage. Rather than coordinating a show as a teacher, I was participating as a parent, and it was a big adjustment for me. I've been out of teaching (and concerts) for two years now, and with all of Madison's activities I'm solidly in the parent role now, but this year, I had a new thought I started to mull.

All the parents of my choir kids probably thought I was crazy. And they were right.

In the weeks leading up to the recital, we've been given forms, and lists, and packets. We've gotten emails. We've gotten order forms for accessories, tickets, flowers, pictures. We've gotten schedules for picture days and schedules for dress rehearsals and make up classes and make up classes (as in, how to probably make up your child).

My three year old needs to have each costume in a separate garment bag (labeled with her name and dance name) with an accessory bag for each costume with shoes, tights, headpieces and accessories (labeled with her name) inside the garment bag. She needs a Caboodle (yes, they do still make them!) filled with the official dance make up shades and brands, specific combs, hair pins and elastics and spray and gel, all labeled with her name (thank you, Mabel's Labels - you make my labeling SO much easier.. I seriously cannot recommend these labels enough). There is an official order for costume/make up putting on. There is a required hairstyle and a required make up procedure.

I was lucky enough to find purple. Because it's Madison and everything HAS to be purple.

EVERYTHING is labeled. Hairspray, brush, earrings, individual make up brushes. She's got a better set up than I do.

The dress rehearsal has me nearly hyperventilating with arrival times, where to check in, where to go, where to put her things, how to prepare her, when she'll be able to eat, where I can pick up paperwork, where I can ask questions, and how to ask questions. The only people allowed at this rehearsal are the dancer and one female caregiver, and we can expect to be at the theater for four hours. If we're late, or unprepared, or in the wrong place or otherwise out of line, we're in trouble.

And if the dress rehearsal had rules, the recital has even more. Plus, once I bring her backstage before showtime, I kiss her goodbye and won't see her until the very end. There are assigned backstage moms and no other parents will be allowed backstage until the show is over.

Crazy rules...strict times...audience protocol...dress code to the extreme...mandatory parents backstage...

I posted a few laughable moments on Facebook (like when I sent myself into a panic after hair and make up class because the techniques are more than I have ever done to myself, let alone my preschooler), and a few people commented that this was crazy! Were we really planning on staying there with all these insane, annoying, unnecessary rules?

The thing is...I kind of get it. Because, albeit to a lesser extent with my choir, I was that director.

Annoying and SEEMINGLY unnecessary to parents, but TOTALLY necessary.


When you leave room for interpretation in a dress code, you will get interpretation. And it shows. And it kind of looks...well...bad. 

When the rules are loosey goosey, people bend them. And break them. And it shows. And it drives the person running the show absolutely batty.

When you allow parents backstage, for completely reasonable requests, you end up with adults walking in and out, and kids distracted and not where they need to be. If one kid is leaving early, they all want to leave early. Because why do they need to stay when not everyone needs to stay?

When you just say "pink", you end up with fifteen different shades of pink, all up against each other, looking like you didn't even bother. When you don't specify ever little detail, you are BOMBARDED with the same question, over and over again, usually as you are trying to coordinate with the sound person, accompanist, assistant, and, oh yes, over one hundred kids.

I used to send out emails that probably printed out in 6 pages. I used to inform my choir kids that before they were allowed to approach me with a question, they needed to CHECK THE EMAIL and make sure the answer wasn't there.

I had a whole sheet with arrival times, warm up spots, locations, performance times. I was annoyingly specific and unbending.

Because it does matter.

Can you be annoyed and totally get it at the same time? Yup.

Was I crazy? Probably.

Here's the thing. These kids, even the three year olds, have been working all year toward the culmination of the "big show". Kids feel like the show is a big deal if they are treated like it's a big deal. I always told my kids that I wanted to treat them as professionals, and all the respect they deserved as professionals. But if we wanted the show to reflect that, we needed to make sure we were all behaving as professionals.

One of the worst compliments you can hear, after a performance where kids danced, or sang, or played instruments, or anything else is "that was so good....for kids". I used to tell my choir that we wanted to be told we were just GOOD. Not with the qualifier that "awwww....wasn't that just adorable to see little kiddies trying to put on a show??? Awwww....".

And to be honest, all those little details? Those are what can make the show. I've been on the other side of the stage. I get that it's important to be there at the right time, with your hair done just so, and to be organized enough where you don't need a hovering mother crowding up the backstage and distracting everyone.

To the parents who are venting on Facebook about how insane your director is? You're right. She's crazy. But humor her and follow those rules. Read the packet. Label the stuff. Be on time. Sure, it's stressful, but take the stress you have and multiply it by the number of students she's dealing with.  

To all the parents of all the choir kids whoever thought I was were right. I was. I'm sure you all got together and made fun of me. I'm sorry. I get it now.

But...I'm not sorry. Because you were always fantastic. And I'll happily take the fall for that.
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