Ninety percent of Parenthood is "putting up" with what would have seemed like drudgery to your single self and finding magic in those moments.
One such moment came this past weekend at a dance recital that included fifty or sixty kids, one of whom I knew. One.
Yes, it is as glamorous as it sounds.
Before I actually had kids, I can tell you what my reaction would have been when my wife said we were going to her sister's daughter's dance recital. I would have pondered ways to create flu-like symptoms or some type of work event that "I just can't get out of." I would have gone out of obligation but I would have dreaded it like my wife dreaded it when she saw that my St. Louis Cardinals were on ESPN so she would be stuck having it on for one Sunday night.
These are the things you do when you are in a family. These are also the things that shock you when they become a bonus of being in a family.
It does not matter if you are the uncle by marriage, aunt by blood, parents or grandparents, everyone does the same thing. You grab the program and risk a paper cut by finding out just how many ballet solos, hip-hop trios, and peculiar routines to every over-played pop song you need to sit through before the ONE that matters happens.
My wife saw that our niece Ainsley would be a part of a routine to a mash-up (word that was formerly hip until "Glee" came to be on TV) of "I Wanna Be a Cowboy" and "Wild Wild West". This would happen approximately fifteen songs into the show.
Now, if you thought we could maybe sneak out during intermission, oh, you have not been a part of the Land of Recitals. There would be several more dances and then intermission. Then, there was a number which included every current member of the school including our niece.
You committed to being here and as God is everyone's witness, you are here all afternoon!
So, as we waited and noticed that there were four or five girls who must be in Velcro costumes because they were in twenty different routines. Again, every parent had the same thought.
"Good Lord! How much money do those people have to spend on all of those costumes?!"
We counted down to when our niece Ainsley's routine with about 20 other girls was coming: Five (Hey, doesn't it look like they just pulled the antennae off of some bumblebee costumes to make those?), Four (Wait, when is my three year old son going to lose interest and start disturbing the peace?), Three (My three year old son pulls me by the collar and says, "Daddy, this is awesome!"), Two (Hey, that kid just picked his nose), One (Uh oh, someone is breaking the first law of all Dance School Recitals: When trying to sneak a video of your kid's routine rather than paying for a DVD copy from the school, use your phone. Your iPad is way too obvious!)
And then, came the moment we were waiting for! Somehow, we experienced absolute glee over hearing two songs that I remember hearing twenty years ago or so but never remember ever listening to all the way through. My three year old hopped onto my lap and pointed and gasped, "Aaaaaaaaiiiiiiinnnnnssssssleeeeeeyyyyyyy! Ainsley is dancing!"
My six year old stayed in her seat staring at 25 kids, only one of whom she will ever have met, and pondered, "So, how do I talk Mommy into letting me do that?"
For three minutes the kids skipped and mimed riding horses and lassoing......well they never actually threw their imaginary lassoes but it was still cool to see. Again, remember 25-year-old me, heck, 35-year-old me would have given myself a nasty headache from having my eyes rolled back in my head if I was watching something like this.
The surprising part was the pride I felt for Ainsley. The self-involved me gets that I would be welling up with pride if I saw one of my kids doing this. Oddly, I am related to this girl only by convincing her aunt to roll the dice and marry me.
Yet, here I was with a little tear in the corner of my eye as this twelve year old navigated around the menagerie of fellow faux cowgirls up on the stage at a Community College theater.
Yes, I do pray that this is the last time that I hear a combination of the one-hit wonders "The Escape Club" and "Boys Don't Cry" but I will remember seeing Ainsley having actual dance moves and coordination.
(Part of the pride comes from the fact that on at least ten occasions I have seen the same girl trip and fall while standing still!)
From there, we knew we just needed to get through intermission. The challenge was increased when a member of our party whose name I won't mention (but it rhymes with "Schmy Schmife") whispered about some desperation regarding having to pee!
Five songs later, we were able to do the "Excuse me, pardon me, excuse me, pardon me" dance as people slid their legs but not their feet out of the way. I was given the diaper change duty (duty, not doody) and the others found the ladies room.
For some reason, we thought once Ainsley's second routine was over that we were heading down the home stretch. We were mistaken.
The show began again and I believe that everyone who had ever gone to this dance school or had driven by this dance school was on stage in our line of sight between our three-year old Miles, me and Ainsley. Again, she did a terrific job, Miles was giddy that he got to see her dance and the rest of the family believed that she was truly the Best One.
In these situations, do not dare to believe it is over! Being that there are the final bows at the end, you do know that you will be in for about an hour and fifteen minutes more of kids you do not know performing dance routines that really do not have much to do with the Disney songs and mostly out-of-date pop songs that overmodulated the auditorium.
My little guy Miles outsmarted us all. The second that Ainsley was done, he turned around in my lap, slammed his face in my chest and passed out. This is quite the trick. The first sign that he was out cold for the duration was the warm drool that I could feel on my shirt.
One minute later, the people in the row behind us and the row in front of us were serenaded by a sound that perhaps only a wildebeest would make. Miles was snoring loudly enough to drown out some NASCAR races.
Heads snapped around because every person who was here to see his or her little princess dance was ready to pounce on any adult who dared snore during this presentation. They still seemed annoyed even at Miles but let it slide. However, they did expect me to put an end to it somehow.
I moved him from one shoulder to the other. No luck
I spun him to face forward. The wildebeest just got louder.
I was also trapped with sixteen filled seats to my left, fourteen seats to my right and a directive that no one should interrupt the show.
Sorry, everybody but Miles Pearson and his snoring would be accompanying the dancers for the rest of the recital.
Now, I do not know if you have had a sleeping child laying on you with no chance of moving but there is no way to avoid having it sap your own strength.. The heat this 30-pounder put out started to have a Kryptonite-like effect on my eyelids.
"Must......not......fall.....asleep....Can't.....have.....strangers.....judge.....me...." Knowing that my own snoring would completely drown out whichever song from "Frozen" was playing, I fought it.
Uh oh. My head is starting to bob. Miles was having the effect of a tiny electric blanket and I did start to fade. I sensed that my own family would have turned on me if I did not keep my eyes open.
Then, it hit me. My energy boost came from one simple feeling. This is just a long hug from my little guy. This was A Moment. Again, before these tiny people came into my life, the idea of being crammed into a seat in a theater that was not showing a Bill Murray movie or a U2 concert would have been a nightmare.
Instead, a big smile overwhelmed me. Yes, there was still about an hour left in the show but this was my second magic moment that only came because I was in a real family.
Mixing the comedy of a sleeping boy on my chest with a room full of people who eventually did not notice the noise but only the love of The Dance (okay, the love of their kids dancing) was a perfectly shocking recipe.
The show ended. Dads reached down under the seats to find the flowers that they had avoided stepping on throughout the afternoon so they could show their daughters how proud they were.
Of course, now I was jealous because I wanted to hand my little girl a bouquet.
Everyone got a chance to bow and soak in the love from basically a bunch of strangers.
This is one of those times that you only get with family. What would have been the worst of times before these people were around was now a day that makes me understand life is pretty unexpectedly spectacular when you let people into it.