Today my husband and I took our kids to see “Annie” at the Citi Performing Arts Center (otherwise known as the Wang Theatre) in Boston. When I heard “Annie,” the musical I adored as a kid, was coming to town, I bought tickets for the four of us right away.
I have the sweetest memory of seeing “Annie” on Broadway with my father when I was eight or nine. I wore a pink dress. We sat in the first row in the balcony, and I leaned forward so far to see the stage that when I went to sit back in my seat, I fell onto the ground because the seat had folded back up. My dad and I laughed about that. I mostly remember how exciting it was to go into New York City with my father—just the two of us. Every time I hear a song from “Annie,” I think of that special night. I wanted my children to have a similar, heartfelt experience.
But today’s show of “Annie” was a parenting lesson in managing my own expectations.
Before I get to that: the show. Oh, it was fun! The music had everyone captivated, the girls playing the orphans had spunk, and the little kids sitting around us (mine included—and maybe even me) sang along throughout the show.
The actress playing Annie had my daughter entranced. “Mommy, is she a real girl?” G whispered as Annie starting singing “Maybe.” G thought Annie was very short adult, I think. R, on the other hand, was all about Sandy. “Dog of the Year! Dog of the Year!” he shouted during the curtain call (the kid really wants a dog). The show is in Boston through November 16, and then heads to Durham, NC. Find out if “Annie” is coming to your hometown here.
Now, back to my lesson. I was really excited about taking the kids to “Annie.” Really excited. I bought the soundtrack to play for the kids, I told them all about how happy I had been when my father took me to see the play, and I showed them YouTube clips from the “Annie” movie. I may have cried at the end of one of the movie clips. In other words, I made the play a lot more than a fun afternoon adventure; I made it a this-is-something-they-will-remember-for-the-rest-of-their-lives-so-I-have-to-make-it-great moment. I picked out a cute outfits for them, mapped out parking, and chose a restaurant for an after theatre dinner.
Well, the kids, as kids are wont to do, had different plans. Their plans entailed fidgeting during the play, saying “I’m hungry” more times than I can count (despite having access to snacks), arguing with one another, fighting over popcorn, not listening to their parents, squirming up and down out of their seats (much to the pleasure of the family behind us), talking disrespectfully, and generally misunderstanding the need to be quiet. They refused to pose for photos, too, which, in our snap-snap-let’s-take-a-selfie culture (and with a mom who is a blogger!), is outrageous (ok, not outrageous, but definitely frustrating).
Fortunately, the theatre was filled with families and several very loud kids, so mine were not an anomaly. But, I was disappointed. I wanted them to remember the day as an inspiring one—especially G who loves to sing and dance; instead, it became an afternoon in discipline. We nixed eating out and the kids went to bed early. My husband and I aren’t tolerant of acting out, and we want the kids to understand that their behavior—both good and bad—has consequences. Perhaps I would not have been so disappointed had I not had the afternoon built up in my head. I still would have been strict, but I would not been so sad about the need to be.
For the kids, today was a lesson in how to behave? An appreciation of musical theatre? I’ll have to wait on that outcome. For me, it was a lesson in the need to manage my expectations better and to temper my emotions with a bit more reality, but to give up on the things I love.