Monday, January 12, 2009

Bantam13 Learns a Dance

Blogging about one's teenagers can be a little tricky. When I met up with Megan and Summer recently, I confided about difficulties we've had with one of our teenagers, and Megan said, "Oh, from your blog, you'd never guess!" For the record and in the interests of FULL disclosure, let me state that no member of our family is as one-sidedly positive as they may appear in this blog. (Including me!)

Often I wish I could post about the latest challenge we're having with one of our kids, but my policy is to focus on the positive and not say anything about a family member that they wouldn't approve. So--many of those posts go completely unwritten. Some things I hope to share eventually, after we're through this phase or that, and time has lent objectivity.

But I have permission to tell this recent one. It has a happy and victorious resolution, and is a big praise to God as well as Bantam13!

You may remember
that he landed a speaking part in his Advanced Drama class's upcoming production of Thornton Wilder's The Matchmaker. Then he also got a featured part as a swing dancer in the Schoolhouse Rock musical, besides all the large group numbers he's in.

Well, you'd think he'd be eager to learn his parts and do well. But B13 has been in an ambivalent phase about theater, and when it comes right down to it, he'd rather practice guitar or skateboarding tricks than memorize lines or practice dance moves, especially when he has a LOT of lines and the dance is HARD--for him, anyway. His first reaction is to give up: It's too hard. He can't do it. He doesn't want to do it. They should get somebody else. He wants to quit.

Why did we make him do theater anyway? he complains. We did make him audition for this show; his siblings were doing it, for a penny, in for a pound, as far as our time and money go. And his reasons for not auditioning were all so bad. His voice had changed, and he swore he couldn't sing any more. He was sure he wouldn't make any friends in the new chapter of our theater group. He didn't think it was cool to do theater. ("Are you kidding?" another mom commented on that, "The theater guys are the smartest boys in town. What other activity has so many girls to every guy?") He didn't think he had time, with homeschooling. (Hah.)

Bottom line is, he had only fear-based objections. I told him that as far as homeschooling was concerned, doing a show was signing him up for speech, music, and PE, besides acting and dancing. Oh yeah, and learning all the Schoolhouse Rock lyrics? Totally educational--duh! Plus he says he wants to be in a band someday and maybe sing as well as play guitar? So let's start figuring out how that man-voice works!

Still, he complained every day about practicing for the audition. Then it began to sink in that he could either practice and do a decent job, or not practice and really embarrass himself. His attitude changed overnight, when he decided to just buckle down and do it. And the results of his efforts were apparent even to himself. His audition was great!

So then he got these parts...and after his initial pleasure, he started complaining about the work required for them, especially over the holidays, when he wanted to be totally on vacation. So we fussed about that for a good bit of the break, until he finally started working on his lines for Act One and discovered that actually, he memorizes pretty easily. Soon he had them all nearly down, including his three-page soliloquy in Act Three, and he was feeling a little better.

But that dance. That swing dance. The one he just can't remember. Can't learn. Can't practice without his partner. Why did they ever think he could do it? They should get someone else. There's just no way he can learn it.

Finally, I had started composing an email to his swing dance partner's mother to see if his partner could get together with him outside of rehearsal, when he appeared at my elbow. "All right, Mom, I know what I need to do now. I need to get together with [another boy in the same number] after class tomorrow and take the lyrics with me, double-spaced, so that there's room for me to write my own notes to remember the steps, so I can practice on my own."

I was thrilled! His idea was even better than my plan. He went home with the other boy and took notes on the steps; he came home and really practiced, and at the next rehearsal, he knew the dance. Both his partner and the director were totally delighted.

He is so pleased, himself. "It's really fun, once you know it," he told me. "And now that I know those steps, I can always do them at other places, like weddings." He also said, "I prayed every time the music started, and I really felt God helping me." And more than once: "Now I'm so glad I got that part!"

We are so proud of him! He has faced his fears, and three times, he has overcome his desire to give up when things are hard: practicing for the audition, memorizing all those lines, and learning this dance. The performances should be a piece of cake. For him, the huge character challenge was to make himself do the preliminary hard work.

And that, my friends, is probably the most important thing he's learned all year.

1 comment:

martha said...

YAYYYY Bantam 13! What a wonderful thing to learn so early in life. By the way, your Sunday visitors got special pleasure from his growing manners and conversation as an adult. Good job, Mama Hen!