A grown up show up

I don’t have a cape. I only wear tights because they are cute with my dresses. I screw up more often than I get things right but tonight my friends…I got it right.

I was a hero to an 11-year-old boy who is living a life that often robs him of his childhood experiences because there isn’t time for him to be a kid. He deals with so many things that are beyond his age and maturity level with such wisdom it blows my mind. However, tonight I was reminded that he is in fact, still a kid. Someone who still likes getting toys of out vending machines, who still needs to be read a story to go to sleep and someone who very much needs the adults in his life to show him how to get through this crazy thing called life.

This evening he had a program at school that he and the entire 5th grade were putting on. His brother had his wisdom teeth extracted today, his dog had surgery on his foot yesterday and his mother continues to battle a debilitating disease that makes leaving the house seem like Frodo’s journey into Mordor. Needless to say, once again, the poor kid has every right to feel a bit neglected. We piled into the car to head to the school for his program and he dissolved into tears.

“my dad is the only one who ever makes my stuff. Other people have lots of people come to see them but my dad is the only one who ever comes.”

[I was tired from trying to be of assistance to the others living in the house, canine and human, and was looking forward to heading home, when..]

“can you please stay and come to my program so I have 2 people there for me?”

[Insert heartbreak here.]

I attempted to explain what a good dad he has and that he at least has 1 person there while some of the other kids probably don’t have anyone planning on being there at all. I tried to make up some excuse why I needed to go home and failed miserably. He’s an understanding kid, so he graciously said,”That’s ok, I understand” as we finished the ride silently to the school. He wiped his eyes and got out of the car to my overly enthusiastic cries of “Good luck!”

I drove away hating my life.

As I was about to get on the freeway I remembered I needed to pick up his sister’s flip video camera from her best friend who took it to school and filled it full of messages [His sister is currently on a 6 month exchange in France]. As I went to finish my duties for the day, my gut was telling me, you need to go to that program. Clock out and go to that kid’s program.

So I showed up.

I stood in the back of the gym in the doorway with his sister’s video camera taping his program. He didn’t see me come in late, he didn’t see the bags under my eyes because I’m tired, but halfway through the second song, he looked back and saw me standing in the doorway.

I’ve seen some beautiful places and amazing looks on people’s faces but that one has got to be in the top 5. His face lit up with a grin as wide as could be and he tried to not look like a grinning buffoon in the choir of 5th graders but he definitely couldn’t help it. I smiled and waved discreetly as he belted out School House Rock’s “Electricity“. The program continued and  when the next song started, I noticed his face turning flushed and he started rubbing his eyes. The poor boy was losing it in the middle of his program. He wiped the tears from his eyes as he sang and did the motions for their extensively rehearsed songs about energy. The hot tears started welling up in my eyes as I realized how selfish it’d have been for me to just go home because I’m tired.

I remembered what it was like to not have my parents around for 5 years and what it was like at that age to look out on a sea of faces and not recognize a single one. Sure it’d have been smart to rest up and establish a healthy boundary for myself in terms of how much I can give to my job. However, that’s not what I’ve been called to do. I’ve been called to pour out my life for others. I’m a giver and that’s what I do.

Throughout the rest of his program, he looked back to see if I was still standing in the doorway and while I wanted to duck out since he saw me and head home, I stayed until the final encore. After the show finished, I headed quickly towards the exit so as to beat the impending traffic out of the parking lot. He, along with all the other 5th graders who were filing off backstage and headed for the gym to meet up with their parents, met me as I attempted to escape quickly. Running up to me he wrapped his arms around my waist and looked up at my face and gave me a huge smile.

“Thank you so much for coming.”

It has got to be one of the best thank you-s I’ve ever received.

So moral of the story friends: Remember what it was like to be a kid and to want someone to be there to see you sing some stupid songs about electricity. To be there for no other reason than you’re up there singing. Be a grown up and show up for the kids in your life.

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