Talent, it turns out, is a relative term. Even more so for smaller relatives. So it was that I once again found myself in the school multipurpose room, sitting and waiting, and bracing myself for what was billed as two hours of talent and fun.
I looked across the crowd of like-minded parents, laughing, talking, and updating our collective Facebook status. We were all there out of love and support, and we all clapped politely when the first child took the stage. And then another. And another.
“The talent show is awful,” one parent warned before the first act started. “I saw them practice. It is just awwwwful.”
She said it like we should nod and agree, like we, meaning every parent in the room, all knew the honest truth about our kids being nothing but cute little hacks and that we should all run for cover as soon as our own child left the stage. And that is exactly what her family did.
Unfortunately, my son was the last act of the evening, and as such I was obligated to stay for the entire performance. The fact is that I would have stayed for the entire show even if my son had been the opener. I’m not a fan of skipping out just because my child has had their moment. That sends a lot of messages and I’m struggling to find a positive one among them. We were there out of love and support, and we were there as a community. Besides, my wife had the car keys.
The kids were as fantastic as we expected. They were a brilliant mix of off-key sweetness and pitch perfect wonder. They danced, showcased martial art skills, and played original compositions. They did it all on a stage, alone against bundles of nerves and the glare of bright lights—standing before a sea of supportive faces, and we let them entertain us.
In front of the folding chairs full of parents sat a mob of cheering children shifting restlessly on the cold linoleum floor. They had seen the show before, having been the invited audience for the morning matinee, and they sat through it again, basking in the glow of their performing peers.
The children clapped when the beat requested it, and they waved their arms in tender unison when the song carried them that way. It was their time, and we were the hugs waiting in the shadows.
“I’ve got to go,” said the father next to me just as the show ended. His daughter had belted out a powerful and charming tune earlier in the program, and he was late to an appointment.
“That was great,” he said. “I’m glad I stayed for the whole thing.”
We all were. And the crowd went wild.