Do you hear what I hear?

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When I was a kid music class consisted of a set of finger cymbals and a teacher who was valiant in her efforts to teach us to sing Michael Row Your Boat Ashore — in round.

Today’s music instructor is charged with teaching music appreciation, overseeing a stage performance, and convincing a reluctant student body that mandatory choir is not an episode of Glee. I’m still trying to get a 13-year-old to appreciate the need for personal hygiene so I wish our valiant choir director good luck with the rest.

Nonetheless, we love school here so choir was going swimmingly for me. There was no choir homework to puzzle over. No choir-related book reports to oversee. Sure, the boy complained but few 13-year-old boys are waxing rhapsodic over arpeggios. (Note I said “few” — not “none.” If your child is a musical savant please don’t tell. It just makes the rest of us feel bad.).

He’s not entirely convinced that math, science and hair combing are ever going to be useful, so choir culture is completely beyond his belief system as of yet. All was well until the day when Wonderboy mentioned, in passing, that he was going to need black pants, black shoes and a white button down shirt for the mandatory, graded, choir concert. Huh? What?

Mandatory

For the record, the word “mandatory” is a bit of a fun suck. Nothing takes the joy and anticipation out of something otherwise fun like turning it into a command performance. Think about it. You never hear of “mandatory spa days” or “mandatory Christmas gift openings – with eggnog!” Mandatory is the kind of word that ALWAYS aligns itself with the dark side.

It’s important to note that my son is my child through and through. We both suffer from the same affliction: “I told you so resistance syndrome.” Namely, any activity based on the idea that we “have” to” do it or that “once we try it we’ll like it” is doomed to failure. It could be a unicorn parade and we’d hate it on principal if it hadn’t been our idea to go.

Mandatory choir concert? In three days. With a dress code? On MY time? I was heard to grumble about this. There may have been pouting. Nonetheless it’s school and we ARE team players. Thus, I sucked it up and purchased black pants and a white button down shirt. On the up side we are totally set if my 13-year-old should get a job as a waiter.

Snow

Then it snowed. Monday’s concert moved to Tuesday. On Tuesday it snowed some more. Does Mother Nature hate mandatory too? On Wednesday it was announced that the mandatory choir concert would be at 5 p.m. On Friday night. Just days away. There was a bit of a backlash.

There were tickets, travel, plans made. Custody arrangements and parents who worked and couldn’t figure out how to explain to their employers that they had to leave work early for seventh grade band. Most of their employers having had the distinct impression that they had graduated seventh grade years earlier.

I would GO but you couldn’t make me APPRECIATE it. Oh no. Then, in the midst of all the online chatter and righteous indignation (social networks like Facebook being particularly good for martyrdom) came one lone little comment. A middle school student wrote: “I hope we get to have our concert because I’ve worked hard on my piece all year.” Oh.

Suddenly the concert wasn’t just an elaborate (albeit entertaining) hostage situation. It was kids who had worked hard and wanted to share what they’d learned with the world. THEIR world — their families and friends. “Get” versus “mandatory.” Get it? I do.

One word

See how a little thing like one word can change your whole mind? There are so few, short years that we “get” to herd our kids into an auditorium to perform. So few people willing to take on the task of teaching reluctant teens to stand up and SING. So few opportunities to relish in the joy of the season it it’s purest form.

A season of peace surrounded by family, community, and some really great students — and teachers — who epitomize the dedication behind the phrase “the show must go on!” You just TRY and keep us away from that concert. I dare you.

Peace, love, goodwill toward men (and choir directors). May you “get” to enjoy all this — and so much more this year — and every year too. Do you hear what I hear? That’s the sound of gratitude. It’s the sound of a parent — and community — that “gets” it too.

(Kymberly Foster Seabolt wishes you all a safe, healthy, and blessed 2011. She welcomes comments c/o LifeOutLoud@comcast.net; P.O. Box 38, Salem, Ohio 44460 or www.KymberlyFosterSeabolt.com.)

About the Author

Warm, witty and just a wee bit warped, Kymberly Foster Seabolt is a native of Kent, Ohio, who survived childhood exposure to disco and grew up to marry and move to the country. Her column weaves her special brand of humor with poignant, entertaining, and honest portrayals of parenting, marriage, and real life. She currently lives in northeastern Ohio with her husband, two children, two dogs, two cats, and numerous dust bunnies who wish to remain nameless. More Stories by Kymberly Foster Seabolt

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