Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Creative Control

We celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day every year with a skit.  Doesn't your family?
Some past MLK Day celebrations.  Notice the cool reading lamp spot light over Peyton.  But please don't notice the half-painted walls, which we did eventually finish the first coat at least (a year later).

It is the closest thing to homeschooling that I will ever do.  And all I can say is, thank god I am not a homeschooler.  Because my kids wouldn't get very far with their education.  Because today, like a lot of days lately, things fell apart pretty damn quickly.

You see, against my better judgement, I gave up creative control.  In all my years in amateur skitdom I don't think I have ever done that.  And I have been doing this a long time.

Backyard talent shows, annual Christmas pageants, after-dinner living room concerts...I was all over that as a kid.  I would boss my brother and sister around like nobody's business.  While I lip-synced the classic "Mr. Telephone Man" by New Edition, my brother knew to be getting the props out for the next number.  My siblings  were well aware that my song at every Christmas pageant was "Rockin Around the Christmas Tree."  Thinking back, one of my favorite years was when my sister and I lip synced "Hard Candy Christmas" by Dolly Parton.  We lip synced it from my parents' Best Little Whorehouse in Texas LP.  Niiiiiicccee.

Yes, I do not like to relinquish creative control.  Ok, any control.  But today my kids were showing some initiative, so I went with it.

Every MLK day we read this book, Martin's Big Words by Doreen Rapparport.

We discuss it at length (15 minutes which is considered at length for my kids).  Then the kids pull out their favorite quotes or powerful, meaningful words and make posters.

Then we usually write the skit together (at least it seems like together, it's really just me telling them what will happen and them nodding).  

Well the two older kids did it this year and I bit my tongue as I listened to their plot line.  We usually interpret Dr. King's message in an anti-bullying fashion, something the kids can relate to in their own school lives.  Or last year we focused on a sexism message with a storyline that involved not letting Lucy play on the hockey team because she was a girl.  Powerful stuff people.  If there was an awards show for stay-at-home moms writing 5-minute skits for their children, let's just say I would be writing my acceptance speech. I digress.

The kids' plot involved not letting JT be on the gymnastics team because he had blonde curly hair.  JT would resort to violence to defend his hair and ability to gymnast, but then a mentor would remind him of MLK's message of nonviolence and all would be right with their world.  Short, sweet, with a bit more Nick-style obnoxiousness thrown in than usual, but I must admit....it wasn't bad.

They even graciously gave me a part, as narrator.  

JT wasn't feeling the plot this year.  Maybe because he is still so young and he didn't like playing the picked-on character.  Maybe because he was tired from a play date.  But he definitely wasn't feeling it.

And to make matters worse, the baby Wade was running around trying to steal the scene like that little dog on the Golden Globes the other night.

Everyone, I mean me, was getting frustrated.  The older kids were getting just plain angry.  And we all quit.  I sent JT to his room for "ruining the whole show."  

Homeschooling parents are probably a tad bit more mature than me.

Then it hit me, oh no! MLK day had turned into every other holiday---expectations were too high, emotions were all over the place and the family ends up not talking.

Well, I'll be damned if MLK day was going to be ruined.  I summoned the kids (even the 2 year old) and we got in a circle.  "Do you guys believe in that play you just wrote?  I mean really believe what it stands for?  That love is more powerful than hate.  That we are all created equal.  That everyone can be great.  Because if you do than we need to not only perform it, we need to live it."  My voice rose, I might have even closed my eyes and lifted my head to the heavens above.  "Life may knock us down, but we get back up.  We are about love."

I opened my eyes and looked into the bewildered and a little bit afraid of me faces of my children.  They nodded reluctantly in agreement.

Then we did what we do to regroup on holidays and days when we need to just get it together.  We put one hand on top of the other in the middle of the circle and on 1, 2, 3 we cheered "Go Youngblood."

It may not be how everybody spends their MLK day, but I gotta believe there is a message in there somewhere of dreams, equality and social justice that they are getting.  

Maybe next year we'll make it a musical.  Now there's a dream.

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