Congratulations, today is your day, you're off to great places, you're off and away - Dr Suess
Parenthood takes you to ridiculous places. Kids parties where you talk real estate with other dads. Dr’s surgeries where you hope your kid doesn’t vomit. Road trips where your car dies in the middle of snake country. Other road trips where one of your kids does vomit and you have to scoop it out bare handed from the backseat while you make yawping sounds. Hospitals with no nappies. Other hospitals with nurses who try and crack jokes as your daughter is taken for heart surgery. Ballet concerts where kids walk and wave and forget to do any ballet. Christmas concerts with your son dressed as a brown dancing snail. Worst of all, social events where your kids befriend other kids and expect you to like their parents.
Oh the places you’ll go, all because you got drunk on cask wine and woke up with a pregnant wife. Twice.
So to a place I went.
I had a $45 ticket. Everyone around me seemed excited to be there while I felt hot and uncomfortable and slightly over weight. The bar was doing a swift trade in plastic champagne and water bottles and the theatre announcer was bing bing bonging updates on the show start time.
I showed my ticket to an usher and found my seat next to a very happy pair of grandparents whom I managed to avoid talking to. Somewhere behind the curtain was my 5 year old daughter. She’d already been there for 4 hours “rehearsing” and I was worried. I wanted to see her, to know she was ok, to check she’d been fed and watered, knew where to go for the toilet and had her tap shoes on. Instead I had to sit in the audience and wait for her to come on stage and dance.
The curtain came up and the show began. Other people’s kids came out in costumes kicking and dancing to badly broadcast music. The show swung from wee little kids stumbling ballet to late teenage girls in tight costumes reminding the audience they had vaginas by pointing to them. It jarred somewhat to go from a group of 6 year olds bumbling as butterflies to pseudo poll dancing without the pole but whoever planned the show didn’t seem to think so.
The opening bars of a tune I recognised came on and I sat up. I’d seen Toes rehearse to this music the week before; well I’d tried to before the teacher asked us to leave and told us we could watch through a tiny window. I saw older kids come out tappy-tapping with flashing teeth. Then younger kids tappy-stumbling with fierce concentration. And then there she was, without tap shoes. She hit her mark, paused, and then went for a little wander around stage. Then she remembered where she was, skipped back to her mark and hit the final pose and then left the stage with the other little kids.
She’d been on for 30 seconds. $45 for my ticket, $30 for her costume, weeks of tap class and rehearsals (the previous week she’d been there for 3 hours on a Saturday afternoon and 2 hours earlier in the day).
And still the show went on.
Gold lame jazz pants on uncoordinated females. They did some interpretive piece centring on caring for a young girl that involved running in circles and doing windmill arms for about 7 minutes before the girl seemed to pass out and they all gathered around her and fanned her by kicking their legs. Through all of this an ominous Booooooong sound was played with random bell noises. Then a boy band came and shouted their name at us and told us that they knew where they were. I was relieved for them but would have preferred they were somewhere else. I found myself worrying about how low slung their trousers were. More girls, more pelvises, more pointing to vaginas.
Finally the lights went dark and I knew I could grab my daughter and get out of here.
The intermission will be 20 minutes.
I’d been here for an hour and a half and the show was only half way done. They were forcing me to stay by holding my daughter hostage. I pictured her held in a room, surrounded by militant teens in leggings and headbands.
Keep the kids safe see - don’t let their parents take them see - until the shows over see.
I went and renewed my parking, bought a chocolate bar and returned to the audience. From my pocket I texted my wife the word HELL repeatedly. I wanted to storm the stage, rip open the curtains and howl my daughters’ name. I wanted to jump dramatically whilst shouting Just stay alive and I will find you.
African music was soullessly danced to by white kids with blazing teeth. Another boy band shouted at me, this time about their granddads having style with girls behind them pointing at their nipples and smiling as they did so. There was a dance tribute to the Olympics that ended with someone shouting SYDNEY and a large chunk of the dinky di audience cheering - best Olympics ever - Steve Irwin died that we might live.
Girls were thrown through the air and caught by boys. Microphones crackled and died as late teens tried to sing about being there for each other while pointing at their vaginas. 12 kids ran amuck on the stage completely out of synch with the music and threw clothing everywhere to rapturous applause…and the show seemed to end.
People started bowing and the entire cast of confusion flooded the stage line by line still dancing and I thought about They Shoot Horses Don’t They….I wondered if these kids had to dance, if there was some dire consequence if they stopped toe tapping and glad clapping and pointing at their genitals every 6 beats.
And there was my daughter lined up, smiling, and taking a bow.
And I teared up.
And she looked beautiful.
And I applauded and cheered and hoped she could see me.
After I’d found her and kissed her and told her how much I’d really enjoyed the show I asked - Do you want to do tap again?
NO, I hate tap
I was delighted
But I like shows. I want to do shows. So I’ll do tap.
I was crushed.
And still going to the places I go - Bear see’s an Occupational Therapist once a week to work on speech and reading issues. I took him on Saturday and Toes came too. I read her The Little Mermaid and played games with her while Bear was in his session with her. Toes went to the bathroom and shouted about how funny it was that she’d done a green poo. Unfortunately I could remember the last time I’d done a green poo myself, which is something I never did before I had kids.
At the end of Bears session the therapist was explaining Silent E’s in spelling and speech that we needed to work on with him. How we need to emphasises the silent letters so we catch them when we spell them.
Words like Tongue, and Come. Come, Tongue – can you see? Come, Tongue, Tongue, Tongue, Come, Come.
I left the building deeply suspicious. My wife called me an idiot when I relayed this too her.
I drank the pain away.
So...be your name Bauxbaum or Bixby or Bray
or Mordecai Ali Van Allen O'Shea
you're off to Great Places!
Today is your day
Your mountain is waiting
So - get on your way - or drink the pain away.