Slap a child silly. Poke them with pointies. Tell them to their face that you like their sibling better and that the dog does too.
All of these? Will leave a mark.
But if you truly want to irrevocably injure - if your goal is utter and lifelong destruction at the subconscious level - if it's kill or be killed, generational-style...my friends, there is just no better way to tell a child that they don't matter than oversight.
Saturday I attended a middle school choir concert. My first and only middle school concert since I was, in fact, in middle school. (And it should be noted that I wouldn't have attended that one, had I not been performing in it.)
So when I tell you I am a Jew in a pew of an Episcopalian church, outside of the perimeter, to watch a group of children half my age (none of which are mine) perform songs I don't know, well...
Let me start again.
Much of my kid life was lived on stage.
At first by mandate, but soon by choice.
I learned early and at the subconscious level that mass performance was a way to elicit momentary "love"...and I was a child hungry for it.
A disappointment since birth, (A surprise. And a girl. So basically the human fetus equivalent of a Double Fault.) I came into this world with a debt on my account, and I knew before I knew that I had to make it up somehow.
The stage provided my medium.
Somehow, if I was singing, dancing, or acting for a crowd, the individuals who judged suddenly became a crowd that approved, if not of me then at least of my flailing arms and tapping feet.
When the show was done, the hands would clap. The smiles would come. There would be flowers. Flowers for me.
Every child deserves flowers.
This is an indisputable fact.
Because flowers, like children, are beautiful and small. They are delicate and special. Their time is fleeting and should be treasured.
Every child. Every. Child. Deserves flowers.
So Saturday evening saw Jew in a pew with a pot of yellow tea roses, all because a child with a voice who was special to me was using that voice to sing songs I don't know in not-quite-right pitches and just-off tempos.
And it was fucking beautiful to hear.
Hundreds watched as Rebecca gave her very first choir concert. A shy child, Rebecca had been the girl in my drama class two years ago who, despite (or perhaps because of) not having the natural gifts of voice or movement or theatrical character, showed notable improvement through the sheer will to be better.
Like clockwork,I could expect an email or text or telephone call from Rebecca once every three months or so. Despite having not taught her for two years, she continues to call with questions. Concerns. Can I go to the park with her? She knows she's not a good singer, perhaps she should take voice lessons. And where is the best place to get extra help with her dance?
Rebecca isn't a natural singer. So Rebecca joined an extra-curricular choir to learn.
Rebecca? DESERVES FLOWERS.
And of the hundreds of people gathered to see their chosen 13-year-old daughter/sister/niece/granddaughter perform, I am ONE OF TWO members of the audience with flowers in my arms.
One. Of. Two.
What. THE FUCK. is wrongwithyoupeople!?
I may take a walk right now, just so I don't spew my mind brains all over this desktop MAC.
Because this really upsets me. I mean, really upsets me. I'm talking, call my mother on the way home and thank her for every time she brought me flowers after a concert/recital/show upsets me.
And I can't understand it.
I mean first - and least importantly but still importantly - flowers are a tradition in the performing arts. They are a mark of honor. Cut and placed in a vase, they serve as a reminder to the recipient that he or she did well. That he or she worked hard for something and achieved. That he or she not only dreamed something but did something. And that? Is no small accomplishment.
It's a life lesson. And it's a history lesson. Theatre, stage, performance - these things are steeped in tradition. And tradition is important. Respect it. Bring some fucking flowers.
Second - and where I really want to start throwing punches - you know what? I may need to go take a walk again...
That performance - that imperfect, far-too-long, I'd-rather-be-watching-"Breaking-Bad" performance, was a one-of-a-kind, never to be duplicated, moment in your life. And you know what's more? THIS MOMENT is a moment of pride in the accomplishments and life of a person you love.
I mean - did you not see what I just saw? Did you not somehow just witness a fucking miracle in that this tiny person - this human life that you made and shaped - got up in front of hundreds of people and did an amazingly brave and scary thing. In a frumpy black dress!?
What were you - in the bathroom for the last two hours? Are you a fucking human ostrich? Is your head perpetually buried in the sand!?!
How are you not beaming with pride? How are there not tears in your eyes? HOW ARE THERE NOT FLOWERS IN YOUR ARMS!?!?
Perhaps, as you see these mini people day in and day out, you take for granted the little goofus things they do.
It's an easy oversight. And one of which I am guilty.
We all take for granted those we see every day.
But a performance is not an everyday occurrence. And if it is, well, you've got a real problem.
Because every external performance comes as a result of a thousand inner-monologues. A thousand solo dances of the mind. A thousand denouements of the heart.
And we only progress in those areas in which we practice.
One little girl went home with multicolored tulips.
Rebecca went home with a potted plant sporting five yellow blooms.
And, if there is any justice in the world, that plant will not die and will continue to bloom and will ever serve as a reminder that she saw her own weakness and decided to do something about it. That she came out better because of her own choices.That she can continue to be better because she can, to a degree, plot the path of her future.
It is a reaping and a sewing.
Assuming she doesn't kill it, I'm hoping that each bloom serves as a reminder that she, too, is beautiful, and, given the right soil and conditions, is capable of ceaseless growth.
I hope the plant connects her in some small way to every singer who's taken stage - I hope it brings her a sense of belonging and pride.
Because that's what flowers are for. And every child deserves flowers.
Every. Single. One.