As I sat in the darkened theater enjoying a performance of "Mary Poppins", a familiar figure summoned me to come with her. At first I thought my daughter had been injured coming down off the stage or even back stage. That wasn't the case. As I was ushered back to the cast dressing room, I was informed that there'd been an altercation between my child and several other performers. Thankfully no one was really harmed, but my child was crying and upset.
This incident came as no surprise to be since moments before I'd noticed that when my daughter was singing onstage, she did not seem her usual chipper self. Something was off. I was later told that another child took Princess's seat after she had returned from one of her on stage numbers. Cast members had been informed that all chairs were open. No seats were assigned or given. Upon finding out that her seat had been taken, she asked for the child to move. When they didn't, she took matters into her own hands and began to hit them.
To get to this moment in time, I need to rewind to the beginning- to the auditions. No even farther back- to five years ago. Yes five years ago my daughter performed on this same stage in another production. Our neighbors shared with us that a local neighboring church was putting on a play for children ages 6-12. The best part is that all children would be able to perform in it free of charge. Everyone who auditioned was guaranteed a role. Many, my daughter included, were cast in the ensemble. It sounded like a win-win situation. It was for the most part except that this was the same summer that we found out that Princess, my daughter, was diagnosed with possible Bipolar Disorder. Somehow she muddled through the performances in spite of her challenges.
In the years since that summer, my husband and I never felt that Princess was ready to perform onstage again. She had many turbulent summers. Since that time Princess has done a lot of growing and maturing. She's the most stable that she has ever been. This April after discussing it with my husband and my daughter, we decided to sign her up for the church's rendition of the classic, "Mary Poppins". It turned out to be a blessing and a disaster.
Our home church has a wonderful disabilities ministry which provides my daughter with a fabulous 1:1 aide during activities at OUR church. The little church putting on "Mary Poppins" does not have this type of ministry. I did ask if Princess could be assigned a buddy. I sent several emails to the church liaisons explaining my daughters unique needs. I was assured that everything would be OK. I checked in weekly to make sure things we progressing. I was that parent. Week after week I was told that things were alright. My daughter was learning her parts and getting along with the other students.
The picture that my daughter painted for me was very different from what I was being shown. I never know if my daughter is exaggerating when she tells me "Kids are being mean to me." Or "No one listens to me." I was even informed that director had a back ground in special ed so I should not be concerned.
I almost feel as if I was the one to blame. This program had over 200 children in it. The cast that my daughter was part of the ensemble for was comprised of around 80 children. Most of them do not have any special needs. The church made no claims in any of their flyers or announcements. Is it this church's responsibility to provide extra support? Was I pushing too hard? I'm not sure where I went wrong. I asked my daughter weekly if she still wanted to be in the play. Even last night through a tear stained face, she assured me she still wanted to perform. At one point she even begged me to let her stay. My child was willing to give up going out to dinner with our extended family if I would just let her stay and perform. So I gave in. I stayed backstage in the dressing room where I could give my daughter the 1:1 support that she needed.
She got a lot of stares from other performers wondering why her mother was with her. Why was this strange lady coloring beside that mean girl? The one who moments before had tried to harm them. I did tell a curious child that I was coloring because it was a fun thing to do with my daughter. What I didn't tell this child was that I know that coloring can be a very calming activity. My child needed calm in the midst of that chaotic room so I created it.
The calm that I created, allowed my child to finish out the rest of her performance. She was even able to have a successful dinner out afterwards. The blessing of being in this play was that my daughter proved that she could live out the actors' mantra "The show must go on." The curse was that she still needed the 1:1 support that she receives elsewhere, but did not get it during this activity.
I'm not sure what I'll do next summer since more than likely my child will want to perform with this group again. For today I'll try to focus on the positives not dwell on the negatives. Just like Mary Poppins.