Tits up! (Now there’s a hot topic for discussing parenting styles. Stay with me, there’s a point.) Tits up! My fabulous musical theater teacher John Hall used to shout at all of us as we each walked onstage, one by one, to perform our assigned song for the day and then get constructively-critiqued and applauded and lauded and torn apart all at the same time. Get your tits UP! He was the original Simon Cowell (but so much better). At the confusing age of 18 (a freshman at UCLA) I really didn’t have “tits” to get “up.” (Still don’t, actually.) But I did what my teacher said… because 1) I didn’t know anything, and 2) each time I stuck whatever I had “up” and “out,” I felt better. I performed better… and that was just about the only thing I really cared about at that stage in my young life.
It didn’t matter if you were a guy or a chick in that class… it was: Tits up! Strong, but wrong! Figure it out, people! That class (for four years, taken almost every quarter electively) was my most favorite part of college. MY. MOST. FAVORITE.
Fast-forward to just recently, when I took my almost-4 year old LadyP to see her first musical ever. (EVER!)
We hauled our tushes down to Musical Theatre West’s production of Disney’s Beauty & the Beast to watch one of my fave fellow musical theater classmates from back then strut his wicked stuff onstage as the show’s evil villain. (Yes, his tits were way up. He was amazing. You were amazing, Tom!) It was a day I’d been waiting for like a freak of a stage mom. I was nearly squealing with glee when I walked my girl down to the orchestra pit and showed her all the musicians. We flipped through the program and I showed her all the actors’ headshots and bios… pointing out who was Belle, who was Gaston, who was Chip. The 90 year old woman sitting next to us warmly warned me that I was “teaching her too much” and that I’d “be buying theater tickets for the rest of my life” if my little girl fell in love with it (I can only hope, lady). Sitting in the dark, watching one of the biggest little loves of my life (LadyP) get swept away in the magic of what was happening onstage made my heart laugh, cry, swell and get very nostalgic about the first love of my life (musical theater). As soon as we got home, I busted out all my old pictures to show LadyP what Mommy used to do before she jumped into TV, got married and became a mommy.
The most impressive part to my girl was that mommy was once Cinderella (one of my most treasured roles, but that role also entailed crying over Stephen Sondheim’s weird, bent tonalities and rhythms that shook my confidence to the core at the ripe age of 20).
With a mess of a picture-pile spread across my kitchen table, I relived those thousands and thousands of hours of logged rehearsals (literally, thousands of hours), vocal warm-ups, sore muscles, memorizing lines, tears of not feeling like I’d ever be good enough (again, thanks to Sondheim songs). My past then smacked me on the head… the skills I learned back then were shaping the way I was handling myself, my household and my kids right now. Yes, you heard that right: Learning musical theater (as taught in the style of John Hall) had a strong hand in teaching me how to handle parenting. ?!?!?!?!?? Crazy, but true.
Just for kicks, let’s look at some of John’s key phrases once again:
Tits Up = Stand up straight. It makes you leaner. It tricks you feeling more confident than you actually are. It gets you breathing evenly when you’re scared $hitless to walk into a room and sing your little heart out for strangers that are there only to judge you. (And, it does make your boobs look bigger… added perk.) Last time I checked, parenting is one of the most-judged pastimes of all… looking leaner, feeling confident and steady breathing can help any parent, right?
Strong but Wrong (or was it Wrong but Strong? oh well…) = Even if you tripped and fell on the way up the stage, hit all the wrong notes, totally missed your mark and couldn’t catch your breath and keep up with the music, DO IT ALL WRONG WITH PURPOSE. BE STRONG. Who cares if you’re “right.” Give the best you have on that particular day and accept that that’s the best you can do. BE STRONG. EVEN IF YOU THINK YOU’RE WRONG. Your ‘wrong’ might actually seem worse in your own head and not be as bad from the outside looking in. Push through what you think is “wrong” and keep it “strong.” You might even fool someone else into thinking you’re right. (Again, that confidence thing.)
Figure it out, people = Pretty much means that stupider people than you have succeeded at whatever it is you’re trying to do. Truly. If someone else can figure out whatever you’re struggling with, then so can you. It’s that simple. It might take you more effort, more time or a little more practice, but you can figure it out too if you want to. Only you can do it… so put in the effort, figure it out and move on.
As parents, how many times have we questioned our choices with the little people we made? We get scared, we get doubtful, we get confused and challenged. Lots of times we still have to sing to try and make things better (thanks, Frozen… “Let it go! Let it go!) Almost every day something comes up: Did I handle that dance class thing right? Will wearing a bikini skew her self-image? And then I realize: The only solution is just keep my tits up, be strong (even if I think I might be wrong) and to use my noggin’ to figure IT out. If I have to: I even fake it here and there (fake it ’til you make it). I know I’m only about 4 years into this mom-thing, but I have noticed that my kids respond better to inner-strength and confidence (even if it starts off as ‘fake’ on my part). None of us ‘know’ what we’re doing, but if you just forge ahead (and pretend like you know what you’re doing, like you’ve rehearsed it a hundred times, even when you’re not feelin’ it) a few things might happen: a) You might feel more confident, b) You might feel stronger, c) You might just really figure it out in the process. It is possible for things to crash together perfectly onstage, even when they’re under-rehearsed (I’ve lived it… it’s incredible).
So keep your tits up, be strong (even if you’re not sure if you’re wrong) and figure it out… thanks John Hall, we love you and owe you at this house.
DO YOU HAVE UNEXPECTED PARENTING LESSONS FROM YOUR YOUNG LIFE?