By Tanya Ward Goodman
Last year, a wren made her nest in our birdhouse and hatched four baby birds. Whenever the mama bird would leave the nest, the hatchlings would scream their heads off. The mama bird would dart quickly around our yard in search of insects and rush back to the nest where she was greeted by a chorus of shrieked gratitude, which shifted almost immediately into an even louder chorus of renewed hunger at which point, the mama wren would launch herself off out of the birdhouse in search of more food.
I felt a strange kinship with this little wren. As she flew in hectic loops around our yard, it was not so hard to see myself navigating a shopping cart through the crowded aisles of Trader Joe’s. Her kids were loud and needy and so were mine. She was frantic and a little nervous. Her feathers, like my hair, needed grooming.
This year, a mourning dove made her nest in the rose bush just outside my son’s window. She sat so quietly, and blended so perfectly into the shadows, that the only clue to her presence was the gleam of her black eye. She laid two perfect eggs and hatched two tiny babies. These hatchlings, just like their mama, were still and silent. They sat patiently in the nest and waited for her to return with food. The babies seemed content with what she brought and they didn’t clamor for more. The mama dove was serene. The baby doves were calm. It isn’t for nothing that these birds are a symbol of peace.
Before I had kids, the only people I knew with children were my friends T and A. They had a boy who liked to read and draw pictures and later a girl who also liked to read books and draw pictures. Their children were calm and quiet and polite. When I went over to their house, my friends cooked elaborate dinners and talked of books they had read (all while having two children under that age of five). These same children would later develop a taste for imported cheeses and both the knowledge of and desire for a “salad course.” These children inspired me to have my own children.
My son did not always like to sit and read or draw pictures. He mostly liked to run. He liked to knock things over and jump on the furniture. When we went to our friends’ house for dinner, he took apart their son’s train set and pounded on the floor with the wooden tracks. At the park when other kids sat and played in the sand, my son raced away across the grass. I raced after him at first carrying my post pregnancy pounds, then my pregnant belly and later lugging his newborn sister. I forgot to read books or brush my hair.
My kids are my kids. They are a part of me just the way the wren’s kids are hers and the dove’s are hers. When I wonder where they came from, I only have to look in the mirror. I aspire to the calm serenity of the dove and there are days when I actually achieve it. But I am at heart a wren. My kids are wrens. We are excitable and anxious and filled with energies we don’t exactly know how to harness. It took me a long time to know this about myself. I’ve learned that I need to walk a lot to keep level. I need to skip sugar and keep the coffee to a minimum. I need lots of lists to keep me organized and alone time to keep me sane. I am embracing the thing I am and also the things I need to be calm in the world. I am trying to use this knowledge to help my kids find ways to soothe themselves, to be patient in the nest, to stay calm and certain that food and comfort and love will always return.
Lil’ Chaos had her first audition…
It was not easy, for us.
But she did it!
She did it…
It’s funny, we are pretty much a theatre family so you’d think this would be
easy, or at least easyish… or that we’d have some calluses built up for this kind of thing…
You know, Jen teaches 18-22-year-olds how to audition,
and that’s easier,
It seems like,
than trying to figure out what a six-year-old needs for an audition…
Lil’ Chaos has been wanting to be “in a show” for over a year…
She’s grown up around them – and seen many, many plays…
In fact, last summer we went to see Fiddler on the Roof Jr. and she declared,
“By next summer, I will be in a show!”
So we signed her up for Theatre Camp this summer…
And part of camp is auditioning…
They all get in, it’s a cursory audition, for placement, and education…
Lil’ Chaos was excited and picked a song
“Lay All Your Love” from Mamma Mia!
I couldn’t have been more pleased with her song choice…
She learned it well…
but had some nerves about performing it
we practiced around the house
and even went to over to the college stage
to practice in a theatre.
Her mom and I have struggled a bit
with how to deal with her nerves and shyness
around all of this audition stuff…
it seems like uncharacteristic anxiety…
I guess the reason is because she is so gregarious and outgoing most of the rest of the time…
but the reality is that even the most outgoing of us, in certain situations, especially when the pressure is on, can get shy and anxious, Jen and I too, to be sure.
‘Tis, yet again,
an opportunity for adjusted expectations.”
We drove to the audition, all together, sang the verse a couple times as a family, then unloaded ourselves… roly poly tumble bumble, into the audition place.
Lil’ Chaos was manic.
She was literally, and yes I mean literally, bouncing off the walls.
It was hard to take – luckily I had to walk the baby around to keep her quiet…
I was nervous.
Lil’ Chaos was nervous
Jen was nervous
Zilla was being three
There was friction.
When she was called in my heart jumped
and the three-year-old started screaming…
she wanted to go too
it was not awesome.
She came out and was clearly disappointed.
That was a sucky feeling.
She had been too nervous to sing her song,
and sang Happy Birthday instead.
we were sad that she was disappointed
we were disappointed that she had put work into
learning the song and didn’t get to share it…
and it was hard to tell if she was disappointed
and sad because of pressure she put on herself
or pressure she perceived we had put on her
This is strange new territory for us.
A big part of the reason I stopped trying to be an actor is because I hate auditions and how they make me feel. I hate them.
Jen acts like they’re no big deal, but I’m sure they get the better of her too.
I was less worried about Lil’Chaos the other day when she wrecked her bike and landed on her face
than I was seeing her come out of this audition…
We both kept telling her – as she was building up nerves about the thing
that auditioning was part of being in a show,
and that it’s okay to be nervous,
and that even big stars get nervous,
and it’s okay to be scared,
and you just have to have fun, be yourself, and do your best.
which she did
she did it
she got through it
and that is the part
that we finally realized we needed to focus on.
She did it.