The Big Show

God calls us to prepare our kids for the “big show” of life,
but we cannot always be in the show with them.

Dads, have you ever coached and prepared your child for the “big show” only to discover that when the show starts you have no control over what your child does? Your child is on his own to make decisions that will affect the outcome of the show.

“Smile, Scout!” I yelled. “You gotta smile if you’re gonna make it!” “Move! Don’t stand still!” I screamed to my motionless ten-year-old daughter as she auditioned at a local children’s theater. I was not exactly screaming like an insane NFL coach since all that hollering was taking place in my mind.

Slumped in a theater seat, I watched 128 talented and experienced actors audition for twenty roles. We were new to this venue and did not know the theater, the director, or the audition routine. Other than that, we were right at home. We are changing our world for Christ, and sometimes that looks like talking loudly on stage, wearing silly costumes, and building sets with other dads.

I chatted with a few parents we knew from previous plays. Our eyes spoke the same question: Why are we here, exposing our children to the harsh reality of subjective choices, pressure, and disappointment? I did not feel like thinking that hard, so I set aside the question as Scout’s audition number was called.

Scout smiled and said “Hi” during her introduction. Was she perky enough to capture the director’s attention? Like the other auditioners, she read a few script lines. Then she stood quietly as the director scrutinized her appearance. We had no control over this part of the audition (as if we have any control over the rest of it). The director thanked everyone and said to read the “callback” list in the lobby to see if they had advanced to the next stage of auditions for another chance.

“Step by step, Scout,” I asserted in my wise fatherly voice. “You work for the callback; then you work for the role.” The callback list was posted, and I suppressed a squeal as I saw her number. Scout asked, “Daddy, where are we going for lunch?”

At her favorite deli, I anxiously instructed Scout to smile, move, be loud, be distinct, and react to her cast mates. She calmly replied, “Okay, Daddy. Can I have another dessert?” Instantly I saw who had the Lord’s peace in this matter.

Scout’s callback consisted of interpreting the line “No Papa, No!” with eleven other little girls. The director asked them to act like their daddy was going to ax off the head of their favorite pet. I am glad to say that Scout has not experienced this with her father. Nevertheless, she sounded convincingly mortified but did not set herself apart from the other girls. My mind again yelled, “Move! React! Be different!”

I felt helpless because we were not supposed to direct our kids from the audience. That makes you a “stage parent,” and the directors despise such beasts. We were resigned to watch our kids succeed or fail on their own. I desperately wanted to coach Scout to excellence. But I could only pray and watch my girl try.

One stage mom could not help herself and frantically gestured in what appeared to be Bohemian Sign Language (BSL). Not being Bohemian, I did not quite understand, but it was something like “Stand up straight and smile, or I’ll clobber you when we get home!”

Scout next auditioned for the role of “Lamb #1.” It was her last chance to amaze the director. Eleven girls read the lamb role as a woolen sweetie. Parents cooed at the precious faces and voices. Scout stepped up and confidently read the lamb with a cruel, snooty voice. Parents responded to Scout’s interpretation with dead silence. We were doomed.

After the director dismissed all, I hugged my lamb, and my wise fatherly voice said I was proud. Then my anxious fatherly voice asked, “Uh, Sweetie, why did you read the Lamb with a snooty voice?” “Because the script said to read with a snooty voice,” Scout’s experienced actress voice replied. Then the wise daughter inquired, “Daddy, why do you ask?” I brilliantly responded, “Uh, no reason. Let’s go get more dessert.”

Scout got the part. Scout was wiser than her daddy. Scout remembered to read those italicized script notes before she launched into a “cold” reading. Scout’s daddy smiled, realizing his girl was doing just fine without him on stage.

Dads, we are called to prepare our kids for the “big show” of life and to set them free in the Lord’s care. We teach, but the kids decide what they will do with that teaching. I am ashamed that I felt helpless because I could “only pray” as Scout auditioned. What I had really said was that I wanted control over my daughter’s life because I did not trust the all-loving, omnipotent Creator of the universe. Ouch.

If you would like to share your thoughts on all this or need some theater coaching from a wise young lady, please contact me atImperfectFather@Gmail.com.