Little has done as much to shape me as a person as the years I spent doing theater. Between the ages of 12 and 22, not a year went by that I didn't do at least one show. I think of a lot of my school years as, "Oh, that was the year we did Grease," or, "[X event] happened between Nunsense and The Taming of the Shrew." When you're an adult who did theater in their younger years, you always have an instant connection with anyone else in the same position. Because there's just something about putting on a show and the kinds of people that appeals to that transcend time and place. The skills I learned onstage and off, the friendships I made, and the passion for the arts I developed are all very much a part of who I am today... and I don't know a single drama kid who can't say the same.
So I suppose it goes without saying that being a former theater geek is absolutely reflected in who I am as a mother. How could it not, really? There is little better in this world to better prepare you for the whirlwind of parenting than the dramatic arts. Here's how:
You Are Used To Running On No Sleep
Rehearsal went until midnight, set construction until 2 a.m., you got in bed at 3 a.m., and you have to be out the door by 7 a.m. if you want to make it to first period on time. The schedule of a new parent is nothing compared to a theater kid's schedule (except having a kid is like being in the longest running show ever... except for maybe Cats).
You Can Improvise
You have crazy good improvisational skills, much to your director's delight when something goes wrong and you aren't standing out there motionless and sweating under the spotlight (and much to your director's dismay when it's the last night and you decided it would be great to insert an inside joke into the script because, meh, it's not like you're going to get in trouble for it, right?). Either way, this ability to wing it really comes in handy as a parent.
We Have All Suffered Under A Horrible Dictator
If you did theater for any amount of time, you have almost certainly dealt with at least one completely insane director who makes you cry. It's perfect practice for a child.
We Also Know How To Deal With Divas
Possibly because we are one ourselves, but even if we really are not, we've certainly worked with people who were. Fact: Experience with developing the restraint it takes to understand (and not punch) a theater diva is something that definitely enables you to tolerate and delve into the mind of a toddler.
Your Discarded Costumes Now Make Up Your Child's Dress Up Box
You've collected and purchases enough over the years to have a pretty impressive stash.
You're A Convincing Liar
Because ACTING! THANK YOU!
You're Always Ready To Play Make Believe... And You Commit To Your Character
Because what is imaginative play if not a kind of weird theater exercise, am I right?
You Can Project
Very useful in parking lots and playgrounds (or if you just want them to pick up their stupid toys like you freaking asked them to very nicely 15 motherflippin' times.)
Your Character Voices Are On Point
Seriously, you guys? I don't like to brag here, but my Elmo impression? Flawless. Absolutely friggin' flawless.
You Have Stamina
Being in a show is exhausting. I shall demonstrate this through a metaphor: Shipoopi.
"Shipoopi" is a song from The Music Man, and it is basically universally recognized as the worst and most annoying song in the history of musical theater. It is just over 5 minutes long, which doesn't seem like a lot, but it's non-stop, high-energy dancing start to finish. The combination of annoyingness and cardiovascular activity makes performing it quite a feat. Drama kids can, and probably have, done this. If not, they have metaphorically done it.
(Incidentally, I would rather chase down a toddler for 5 hours than have to hear that 5-minute song one more time.)
Our Brains Are Lullaby Catalogs
Your extensive knowledge of musicals means that you have album after album of songs to lull your little one to sleep just waiting to be sung, from "Not While I'm Around" to "Stay With Me" to "Castle on a Cloud." This also works for playtime songs! When he was an infant, my son would sit attentively giggling as I sang the score of the Sweeney Todd... you know, the play about a murderous barber and his neighbor who grinds his victims into meat pies? I worry about that kid...
You Are Capable Of Summoning Your Inner Demons In Order To Scare Your Kid Sh*tless
Whether you are an actor who has experience getting into character, or you're stage crew who has, on occasion, had to flip out on an actor because if they listened the first time where they need to leave their effing props they wouldn't keep leaving them in the wrong place, you have looked into the abyss... and you can use that when you have to. (And we're not talking Mommie Dearest levels of scaring your kids. Just enough to put the fear of God in them. It's casual.)
For you are an ~artiste~. As we all know, creativity is essential in parenting, whether you need to figure out how to hide an enormous chocolate stain on their shirt on picture day or you need to trick them into eating spinach because if they don't get some iron in them they're going to be perpetually anemic.
You Understand The Importance Of Family
Because your theater peeps are your family. You depend on them and they on you. You confide in one another. You piss each other off. You have the best stories about one another. This is excellent training for having a family of your own.
You Are Used To Doing The Same Thing Over And Over Again
Step, kick, kick, leap, kick, touch...Again! Step, kick, kick, leap, kick, touch...Again! Step, kick, kick, leap, kick, touch...Again! Step, kick, kick, leap, kick, touch...Right! That connects with...
"Honey, stop putting that in your mouth. Honey, stop putting that in your mouth. Honey, stop putting that in your mouth. Honey, stop putting that in your mouth..."
You Know That, No Matter What, The Show Must Go On
Parenthood will try to destroy you. You will want to quit. But you don't get to walk off the stage. You can have strep throat, your costume can rip, you could have lost every single one of your props, you can wipe out on stage in front of everyone, and the set can fall down around you, but you keep. on. going. Theater taught us drama kids that there are things out there bigger than us and it's worth pushing through — no matter what the cost to our personal comfort levels or momentary discomfort. If that's not the perfect metaphor for parenthood then I don't know what is.