It is Missoula Children's Theatre week here and having a late in the daily activity is throwing me off. They had about 90 kids show up for the auditions this year. It's the biggest we've seen yet. Unfortunately, they only had spots for 56 kids, so there were many disappointed faces on Monday, my middle munchkin among them.
Munchkin Boy, however, got the role of assistant director. He was walking on clouds and really seemed to enjoy the first couple of days of rehearsals. "I get to run lines with people and I tell them when they need to have their toes on the mark," he told me.
The third day, it finally hit him that he wasn't actually going to be on stage for the production.
"You know what sucks?" he told me as he climbed in the car that evening, before rattling off a series of good things about the evening, as well. I think all the responsibility has helped balance that disappointment. He still seems to be having fun. He's really looking forward to tonight's performance. And he's also looking forward to being done so that he can talk his sisters into staying up to have a movie marathon with him. At the moment, thank goodness, he recognizes that he needs some sleep.
A couple of things have really struck me about this experience. First, it's not often that he ends up doing things without his sisters. Being the third kid, he's often "benefiting" from the wisdom of their previously gained experience. But more and more, he's seeking out activities all on his own. He's not at all afraid to fly solo.
The second thing is that when he talks about his time at the rehearsals, he's full of names. Sarah is his co-assistant director. Leslie and Calida are the directors. He knows many of the other kids by first name, as well. This is notable for me as he has always had a tendency to describe people by their appearance and has not always been good at remembering names. You know, the girl with the long blond hair who we went to that thing with, or the boy with the dark curly hair and kind of freckles on his face. Even kids he has spent a lot of time with on a regular basis he will often describe to me rather than use their names. You know, the boy where we go to his house and he has the trampoline in the back yard and the little sister and his hair is long but he used to have a mowhawk? Yeah, Alejandro. That's him.
Well, he's gotten much better at calling regular playmates by name, but he continues to remember descriptive details first. I've always figured it says a lot about the way he absorbs the world. He's got some serious powers of observation.
There's a little maturational leap going on here and I'm having trouble pinpointing my emotions. I'm proud. I'm enjoying his observations and his stories about what goes on at rehearsal each day. But it also strikes me that he doesn't really need me quite the way he did. I stayed for the meal break on the first day, but he ate with the cast and crew. Subsequent days, he's had his own meal packed and ready to go before I even started watching the clock for time to go.
I arrive to pick him up in the evening and find myself looking for that squirmy little boy who is always in motion and it takes me a minute to realize that he's that bigger, serious kid, studying the script from his place at the edge of the stage, or handing out papers to the cast members before they leave at night.
With your oldest kid, these changes leave you in awe, but with the youngest, that awe is mixed with a little something else. It's bitter-sweet, and at times it makes you feel a little bluesy.