I kept waiting for the tears.
My daughter had her final performance of “It’s A Wonderful Life” on Sunday. She played Zuzu Bailey in three shows at Spotlight Arts in Fairport. After two of the shows she had done earlier this year, she cried inconsolable tears after the final performance because she was so sad that it was over.
“In a few minutes, I’m going to start crying,” she announced to the cast members and parents lingering in the lobby after the show.
But the tears never came. Instead, there were hugs for all the cast members before we left the frozen yogurt place next door.
My daughter is a theater kid, through and through. She has done 12 shows since the summer of 2015, including two all-age shows in which she had to audition and earn a part.
The Sports Media Guy is raising a theater kid who barely cares about sports.
And it’s the best.
There’s something wonderful about the theater community, especially at this level. It’s so supportive. The kids in it are so incredibly kind and generous. They look at my 7-year-old not as the little annoying kid to be tolerated but rather as the cast’s little sister. She looks up to these high school and college-age performers as if they were Broadway stars.
It’s such a different environment from what we think of in youth sports. We saw that environment a little bit when our daughter played soccer this fall. To be 100 percent clear, she had a great experience. Fantastic. Her coach was wonderful, a guy who absolutely understood why he was there and what the point was. But you could see the start of the pressure on some of the players in her league, the expectations and demands and desires of parents, the initial ripples of pressure that have come to define youth sports. You could see how quickly it could become not fun.
I haven’t gotten that vibe in theater.
I’m not sure why this is. Maybe it’s the age thing — in youth sports, there is so much pressure to get in with the right travel teams early, so that you can get into the right AAU programs and get on JV and then varsity and earn that college scholarship. My daughter’s 7, and it already feels like it’s way too late for her to be a serious soccer player. Theater’s not like that — for every child star, there’s a late bloomer. There’s not this intense pressure on the kids to be successful RIGHT NOW, to win every day, etc. There seems to be much more perspective.
Maybe it’s inherent in the theater community. It takes an entire cast and crew to put on a show. It’s less competitive and more cooperative.
Maybe she just found a really great theater group.
It’s not that sports are bad, or that youth sports are inherently harmful for kids. We all know plenty of kids who have had truly awesome experiences playing sports. My own kid’s experience playing soccer this year was wonderful. Most of the volunteers who work in youth sports are doing it for the right reasons.
It’s that here I am, the guy who has been around sports his whole life, the Sports Media Guy, whose kid has found a home not on a field but on the stage.
It’s been wonderful to see. One of the great joys of parenthood is seeing your kid find the thing they love to do more than anything else, the thing they want to do more than anything else. For my kid to find her thing, her place, at such a young age is a blessing.
Of course, she could wake up tomorrow and decide that she wants to be a chef. Or a scientist. And if so, we go with that. She does this as long as it’s fun, as long as it’s what she wants to do.
For now, she’s got plans to go to New York City in 10 years to study theater. Like Idina Menzel. And her friends from theater.
As for me, I’m just going to enjoy watching her on stage every chance I get.
“Listen, Daddy. Hear the bell? …”