Getting it right

Dear LORD!!! It’s 10:30pm and I just got them both to bed!

6-year-old Ruby was lovely at her piano recital. I mean – she only started taking lessons 8 months ago, so the big challenge was making it through ‘Pop! Goes The Weasel’ with two hands. Of course her dad Tony and I, both professional musicians, are as proud of her obvious brilliant genius as if she were Mozart.

While she was onstage, 3-year-old Lake stomped up and down the aisles of the elementary school’s auditorium, chomping on celery. I shot Tony death-glares to for God’s sake get up and pin him down since I would sooner cut off my right arm than stop videotaping Ruby’s big performance. But we both beamed as Ruby thumped through ‘The Indian Rain Chant’ and some spider creeping song.

She was poised, perfect and so small at that grand black piano.

When she finished, warm ‘my-kid-is-up-next-so-let’s-all-make-the-best-of-this’ applause filled the auditorium. Suddenly, her fabulous teacher Yukimi Song rushed out and said, ‘Wait! We have a surprise! Ruby is going to play another song now, as a special surprise treat… for her mother. It’s her mom’s favorite song and Ruby learned it just for her. I will accompany.’

Heads swiveled back as parents smiled at me, frozen with my Flip camera raised like Uhura’s Tricorder, in shock.

I started breathing again when Ruby began the melody line gently and Yukimi comped the chords to ‘Counting My Blessings’.

“When I’m tired and can not sleep /

I count my blessings instead of sheep /

And i go to sleep /

Counting my blessings…”

Like I haven’t been weeping enough through the last week of first grade, the Parents Observations of the final dance and gymnastics classes and the little backpack crammed with the contents of her cubby. Goddess above! In that quiet moment of unfathomable sweetness, I sobbed like a preemie as my daughter brought the house down. During intermission, other moms came up to me, faces soft and tender as they squeezed my arm. Tony and I clutched each other happily and then he had to leave for a rehearsal.

It seemed to me that the only way to respond to a gift like hers was with a whole raft of the worst parenting choices possible. She, Lake and I strolled home from PS41 instead of taking the taxi that would have gotten us home by bedtime. I got them a gigantic chocolate malted at Johnny Rockets (extra thick, extra malt) and bought a bulging pack of Silly Bands (the gladiator sandals of the 1st grade set).

I let them skip the bath and we lay on Mamadaddy Bed with my laptop, indulging their voracious desire to watch videos of themselves as babies, and then read them THREE books. Wired, tired and utterly expired, they finally melted to sleep just now, two and a half hours past school night lights out.

And it was worth every minute.

Once in a good while, everything I’m pouring out of myself to fill them up – all the deliberate words, meticulous thought, thoroughly-plotted actions, all the choices and corrections, the hopes and prayers, all the constant conscious love – every once in a good gorgeous while, it feels like I’m getting it right.

Alyson Palmer
Advisory board member, Guest blogger


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