We are entering the era of the “show” in the Baby Squared household. You know: the “shows” that kids put on for their parents — and frequently, their parents’ friends, since shows tend to be a prime play-date activity — that may involve costumes, singing, dancing, and various forms of experimental and audience-participation theater.
Actually, when Elsa and Clio were three, they also went through a show phase, but it was rather surrealist and Waiting for Godot-like. Which is to say that the entire show was anticipation and set up of the show. We would be told to sit in a chair or hold a puppet or close our eyes or otherwise prepare (it was never quite clear if we were supposed to be in the performance, or just watching it), but the show itself never quite happened. It was all about process, man.
The shows are still mostly about process, it seems. And it’s never quite clear when exactly they start or end. But most do seem to have some kind of concept at their core. A couple of weeks ago, the girls did a show in which Elsa (dressed up as Minnie Mouse, above) stood on a bathroom step-stool and danced; Clio, dressed as a witch, stood there and smiled sweetly and was occasionally introduced by the emcee of the show — a sophisticated nearly-six-year-old — as a “very bad witch” (by which I think she meant wicked, although what with all the smiling, she wasn’t that great a witch, really). Meanwhile, another friend, dressed as a bunny/fairy handed out toys from a basket (“eggs”) to the various adults. And then collected them. And then handed them out again. (Several times, we — the adults — all started clapping, in hopes of ending the thing lest it go on forever. Eventually it worked.)
This past weekend, while hanging out with Baby Daddy and his wife and kids, we were given a “paper party” show by the girls. Elsa and Josie sat in the playhouse in our back yard drawing and cutting out pictures while Clio ran back and forth from the playhouse to the dinner table inside to give us an update on when the show would start.
And then, finally, it did. It turned out to be a very audience-participation-heavy production — a total reinterpretation of the meaning of theater, really. Each adult in turn had to take the stack of drawings, hold each one up, and say what they were. Steve, who you’d think was very sophisticated about humor judging by how he talks about it, was the biggest hit, with his potty-focused interpretations of the girls’ art.
During my turn (not nearly as well-received) Clio and Josie took off and started kicking a ball around the yard. Eventually Elsa joined them, and I was left standing there with a stack of paper cut-outs in my hand. I think Alastair had left by that point, too, gone inside to have another slice of pizza and glass of wine.
I do appreciate their enthusiasm and creativity. And I find their concept of what makes a “show” endearing / hilarious. At the same time, I can begin to sympathize with my father’s reaction to a “show” my brother and I attempted to put on for our family once back when I was seven or eight, while my grandparents were visiting. Which is to say, he got angry at us for insisting on performing our (ill-conceived, barely rehearsed) show after he’d made it clear he’d rather we didn’t, because he was trying to have a conversation with his parents (I think my mom might have been on our side…).
But I don’t think his anger is the only reason why I remember the incident; I probably also remember it because, on some level, I knew he was right. We really shouldn’t have forced our crappy little show on the grown-ups like that while they were trying to visit. At seven or eight, I was old enough to understand that (unlike our girls now, at four). But I was still excited enough about putting on a show to forget.
I’m looking forward to many more “performances” over the next several years. But I also realize, sadly, there may also be times when I’m in the difficult position of being the financier who has to shut the things down right after opening night. Hey, that’s show business.
Read about my forthcoming novel, EDEN LAKE.