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When your daughter has the talent, but needs that extra push…

The other night, daughter had a concert with her Chorus and the Jerusalem Youth Chorus. The show is A Song for Peace Everywhere, which used to be A Song for Peace in the Middle East, but with all the recent local violence, the name has been adapted.  It is one of the first BIG shows daughter has had since she rejoined the world of singing, after deciding she was finished with it. A few years ago, I tried to catapult her through this resistance. However, I have been doing this mothering thing long enough to know when it is time to relinquish control. And it was time. This is one of the secrets of parenting. The picking of the battles. And the almost constant mounting of parental momentum to then begin the shoving of the child through the threshold of whatever the latest I-don’t-want-to-do-this-anymore situation is. With son, this pushing was almost a given. Mr. slow-to-warm-up pretty much required THE SHOVE. Even the transition from DRY to WET at the beach would take HOURS. “Will you just go in?” I say. For God’s sake! Son would stand at the shoreline, debating. But daughter and chorus have been a whole different kind of thing. Because daughter LOVES to sing. When daughter was six in Brooklyn, I noticed a sweetness to her voice. My friend with an older daughter told me, “Oh, you should audition her for the Brooklyn Youth Chorus. It is THE BEST.” And so we go. We audition. Daughter has a little prep session with my OTHER friend the professional singer. Yeah, yeah, I know. Prepping a six year old. Very NYC. Daughter auditions. Not only does she get in, but since we are a single parent family with absolutely no disposable income, she gets a full scholarship. I cannot tell you how happy this makes me at the time. And so begins the choral singing and FREE classical training. Daughter starts in the PREP division and slowly moves her way up. Along the way as her voice grows, she gets to play all kinds of famous venues, led by all kinds of famous people, including singing the live soundtrack to Lord of the Rings at Radio City Music Hall. But also along the way is the schlepping to many, many rehearsals in many, many places. Frequently I would be at work in Brooklyn calling around to friends working in Manhattan, “Can you pick up daughter from rehearsal?”. Because it really does take a village – and boy, you learn that when you are a single parent. In fact, now that I am remarried and Philly is in our lives, it is like one big parental vacation for me. NOW I can say, “I can’t do it. Philly will do it.” when daughter asks for one of her many daughter requests, frequently requiring A RIDE. And so the singing. Sometime between 7th and 8th grade daughter was promoted to the second to highest division. Rehearsal intensified. And so did the GIRL BULLYING. Daughter tells me, “I don’t want to go to rehearsal tomorrow. “S” was making fun of me today at chorus. She was all like: Oh, NICE NOTE you just hit.” Girl Choral Bullying. Yep. True.

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“S” is in the highest division of the chorus, which I discover can sometimes carry a certain snobbish privilege of TAUNTING the lower choristers. We have meetings with the directors to discuss this taunting business. I don’t know if it is the girl bullying that is the final straw for daughter or if it is that she is about to start high school as a vocal student. But I knew I was losing the DON’T QUIT chorus battle. I even enlisted son to try to help reason with her. “But you LOVE singing.” “What else are you going to do with your time?” “You are going to miss it.” “What about all those cool venues?” It did not matter. Nothing worked. At the end of 8th grade daughter quit. Yes, she sang in 9th grade high school. But it was not the same. “Don’t you miss it? You miss it right?” I ask. Silence. When we moved to Philadelphia the high school did not offer a vocal concentration. I wait. And I wait some more. And one day, when it is the right time, when I can leverage the need for this particular talent on a college transcript, I pounce. “You need to rejoin chorus.” I say. You might imagine how this goes over. But somehow I win! Daughter auditions and joins Philadelphia Girl Choir. With only a minimum of teenage mish-mash grumble-mumbles. I just ignore them. Slowly the music comes back. Daughter is singing in the shower again. Daughter is cueing up musical theater favorites and sharing them with Philly, who also is a fan of musical theater. Of which I myself, am not.

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And now, here we are tonight. At the concert for peace. One of the arrangements is so beautiful it almost makes me cry. And even though we are way up in the nosebleed seats, I can still see daughters smiling face right in the middle of the stage. I feel like standing up and waving, “Up here daughter! Up here!” and “That’s my daughter!”. But, ok, I do not. We go through the whole two hours of the concert. I watch as daughter joins and exits gracefully and rejoins. I think: Daughter knows what she is doing now. Daughter is a professional. After the show, the singers gather in the lobby for pick up by parents and somehow erupt into a spontaneous jumping up and down, dancing around songfest. I look over and daughter is laughing and jumping and singing her heart out. I look at Philly and smile. I say, “She is having fun!” “Yes.” he says. “She is.” Even though I am on four hours sleep due to previous night of doula work, I let her jump around for a while. When it is time to go she is all teenage sweaty and flushed. “That was the most fun I have had in chorus!” she says. “I can tell.” I say. Ok, I cannot resist. “Aren’t you glad you are singing again?” I ask. “Yes mom.” she says. I smile a big mama smile. And I think: Don’t quit before the miracle happens. Yeah.

Darlene is a teacher-mother-designer-writer-doula who is recently transplanted to Philadelphia from Brooklyn. Her writings on mothering and growing up female emerged as a sanity-saving device and productive alternative to crying on the kitchen floor. She can be found at [email protected] or you can read the antidotal stories of insanity, reality and progress on her blog.

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