The second act is beginning. We are settled into familiar seats in familiar darkened auditoriums, but we do not really feel settled. We are not familiar with how this is going to go, this last second act of this particular symphony, this particular show.
We are the band, orchestra, choir, theater, and dance parents saying goodbye to the stage while sports parents are saying goodbye to the sideline. Our kids—the ones we’re ordering caps and gowns for—have played their games on marching band fields, hardwood floors, and risers. Their uniforms have been concert black-and-white, yards of tulle and satin, and costumes of every incarnation. Their equipment has been rented instruments and vocal cords we babied with lemon and honey and pointe shoes worn until they were declared “dead.”
Saying Goodbye: Last Performances
We took our performers—some of them—to dance class, piano lessons, or beginning orchestra when they had to hold our hands walking into the studio or when their legs dangled off the piano bench but didn’t touch the floor or when they played tiny half-size violins that looked like toys but were priced like family heirlooms.
We are experts at finding the best deals on rosin and reeds. We always know where the black socks are at the last minute. We’ve hauled instruments to the repair shop, tightened screws on tap shoes, and hemmed costumes while our kids were halfway out the door for a performance.
When our musicians, dancers, and actors made their first big entrance and played “Twinkle, Twinkle” or did a plié or said their part, we beamed with pride and applauded with abandon.
Over the years, we’ve run lines until we could recite them under our breath with our kids while they were delivering them on stage. We’ve listened to scales so many times that we’ve known when something wasn’t right even if we ourselves never played a major, minor, or chromatic anything in our lives. We have insider information about the spots that trip our kids up and cheer, if only silently, when they sail past them. We hold our breath when they get to the note we know they sometimes miss and breathe a sigh of relief when they hit it.
We’ve consoled our students (or tried) when they didn’t get the part or squeaked at exactly the wrong moment or fell out of a turn. We’ve waited for call-backs, scores, and letters of invitation. When the call-back came or the score was the right number or the letter started with “congratulations,” we celebrated and blocked off dates on our calendars.
We’ve built sets, cooked cast dinners, sold tickets and flowers and intermission concessions, chaired committees, chaperoned bus trips, and bought every imaginable fundraiser item. We’ve got show shirts crammed into our dresser drawers. Our friends and relatives know they won’t see us much during marching band season or over recital weekend, and we know we won’t see our kids during tech week.
There is No Next Show to Look Forward to
In all this, over all these years, we could always look forward to the next show, the next concert, the next performance, if our students signed up for another go-around. But now, we’re in the final second act. We’re still arts parents, but now we’re grad parents, too.
Our seniors have played their final high school marching band shows. They’re learning last solos for competition. They’re hoping to land, finally, the leading-lady or leading-man role they’ve been eyeing for the past three years or longer.
Some of our kids will take their art with them when they walk across the graduation stage. They’ll march or dance in college. They’ll sing or play in community choirs or orchestras. They’ll act in local theaters.
But this is the last stanza of this singular song.
Soon, there will be performances when the flowers we always saw being handed out to parents of departing seniors will be handed to us. Our kids will the ones called out of the band or cast or full ensemble to be recognized…to stand in a line at the front of the stage while we applaud louder than ever.
We already know we will miss this, because we’ve been told so by other last-bow parents. But all along, we loved these pursuits for our kids because they were always about so much more than any one performance. They were always about the bigger stage.
Our ballerinas, cellists, second-sopranos, and understudies have learned hard work and teamwork. They’ve learned to do their individual best for themselves and their corporate best for their team. They’ve learned to take instruction, to move from where they were to where they wanted to be. They’ve learned to win and lose, to hit a goal and to miss it—gracefully and without giving up.
These lessons will serve them well. The final curtain for this season of their lives will close, and they’ll take their last bow. But their song, their dance, their show will play on.
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