Thanks to my dad’s taste in movies and music, I grew up enjoying Broadway Musicals. I liked them so much I brought them to life on my own backyard stage. I can remember belting my heart out in song while stretching wide my seven year old arms and anchoring my legs into the shape of an upper case ‘A’ on top of our backyard picnic table. Of course, I didn’t know I couldn’t sing like Ethel Merman. But how I remember dropping my enrollment in Junior High Glee Club after Mom broke that terrible news to me five years later.
Some early experiences have a way of defining what we hold sacred as well as the people we later become in life. For example, as a mother of four, I tried to never discourage my children from self-expression in the arts or athletics. When Bryan wanted to be a baseball pitcher, I supported his dreams with afternoon pitching practice and playing the role of Team Mom. When others discouraged Kate from cheerleader try-outs, I told her to ‘go for it,’ and wasn’t at all surprised when she made it. When Kara wanted to be a ballerina one year and a gymnast the next, then this was what she got to pursue. And when Kyle wanted to experiment with art, I found an art teacher to show him the way.
With both husbands out of town, Kara and I pursued the arts on our own this weekend, by taking in yesterday evening’s performance of “The Lion King”. Surprisingly, it wasn’t the glorious music but the story line and rich colors of the props and costumes that captured my attention. I had all but forgotten the nuances of the storyline: how the young lion cub Simba runs away from his destiny when he believes his Uncle Scar’s lies; how two sympathetic souls help Simba anesthetize his pain with their own happy-go-lucky philosophy, which fits for a time but leaves him restless and searching after he grows up; and how Simba frees himself to claim his original and true destiny by facing his past and overcoming the lies.
If only. If only brokenness were as easy to mend in real life as in a Disney fairy tale. If only the early and often dashing of children’s hopes didn’t breed more harm than good. Because criticism, whether it be good or bad, serves to hem us in by keeping us shrunken, a mere shadow of what we are fully intended to be, rather than inviting us to stretch wide our arms to embrace life fully, even at the risk of singing off key.
I made many mistakes when raising my children. But giving them the freedom to discover their own personal truth in art and athleticism–this I hope I did right. Growing up lion kings … this was what I tried to do as a parent.
As for myself, I’m just growing up. Into what… well that remains to be seen.