Dealing with Disappointment

The air was crisp, the breeze was cool, and the sky was dramatically blue at kindergarten recess on Monday, a welcome change from the gloomy gray Mother’s Day sky.  Over at the gaga pit, things seemed to be going well for my friend M.  

I have to watch him carefully, since his temperament is a bit like those poblano peppers that yesterday’s recipe warned me about.  They tend to be mild but can occasionally be very spicy.  On this occasion, M. was employing  the “avoid the ball” strategy, and it was working well for him, even when the second ball was added to the pit.  He didn’t try to get anyone out.  Instead, he just used his quickness and precocious avoidance strategies to evade every swatted ball.  As a result, he remained in the pit for most of the recess time.  His one “out” was clear-cut.  He accepted his fate without dispute or explosion.

When the whistle blew to end recess, I girded myself for some sort of event.  M. doesn’t always appreciate transitions. M. grabbed the gator ball and hugged it vigorously, smooshing it so that it resembled an oversized raisin.  He began walking in the opposite direction of the pit’s entrance.  Another student readily deposited the other ball in the mesh bag that the kindergarten teacher held open.  M. showed no inclination to follow this example.  The teacher repeated her earlier direction.  “Line up and bring the ball to me, please.”  M. showed little interest in that direction.  He continued in the opposite direction.  Then, he threw the ball toward the far wall of the pit.  At this point, another kindergartener stepped into the situation.  He scooped up the ball, now back in its plump (non-raisin) condition,  and ran it over toward that open mesh bag.  M. was not pleased.  The spice was rising.  “Hey! Give me back that ball!” he demanded.

“I’m just putting it in the bag,” the other kindergartener said as he dropped the ball in the bag.

M. was enraged.  This was his squishy ball, and he was having a good time turning it into a raisin and throwing it against the gaga pit wall. He began expressing his displeasure with what we professionals call “red language.”  By kindergarten standards it was more habanero than poblano.  

I stepped between the combatants, and escorted M. toward the alternate entrance to the building.  He fumed.  “I don’t like that boy.  He is not my friend.”

“Well, M., he was just trying to do what the teacher had asked you to do.  He was putting the ball away, since recess was over.”

“I was going to do that!  He shouldn’t have taken it from me.  I’m not going to be nice to him.”

“That’s too bad, M.  I don’t think he really did anything wrong.  He picked the ball up off the ground.  He didn’t take it from your hands.”

M. was not swayed.  This was a grievous wrong that the boy had done, and it called for a proportionally harsh consequence.  As we entered the building, M. imposed his final sentence.

“I don’t care.  I’m not ever going to play with him.   I will never have a play date with him, even when we are in high school!”  Ouch!

A little while later we paused in front of a cleared-off bulletin board to pull out a few stray staples that M. noticed along the bottom edges.  This required some persistence and concentration.  He dropped the subject of the egregious gaga transgression.

Moments from the Tech Booth

In March and April, I worked on our school’s musical production, Shrek JuniorAs I mentioned in an earlier slice, I’m not technically a techie.  However, the techiest teacher in the school was unavailable since his wife was producing the show. Someone had to watch their kids.  So, the job of tech director fell (a long way) to me.  Surprisingly, I actually enjoyed myself, and we didn’t screw up, undoing all of the months of hard work that the actors, set constructors, costume creators, and directors had logged before we got involved.  That had been my major fear…that and embarrassment.

I worked in a tiny booth at the back of the auditorium.  Inside our little room, we had receivers, amplifiers, a sound board, a light board, a computer, two ipads, a sunset gadget, four different remote controls, the charging docks for ten walkie talkies, a cabinet with more batteries than a CVS, four stools, four mic stands, piles of papers, post-its as wallpaper, and five humans.  It was cozy. The five of us got to know each other fairly well.  One difference I noticed between me and kids is that the closer we got to the actual show, the more nervous I became, and the more confident my younger co-workers became.  I was tense.  They were loose…downright cocky.

Exhibit A:  Two days before the show, someone dropped off a little gadget that gives off the light of a sunset.  We had been rehearsing with spotlights, overhead stage lights, four-colored LEDs over the stage, and a starry-night gadget at the front of the auditorium that required operation by remote control from the booth.  It seemed like a lot for the two fifth graders to manage.  I thought the sunset light was cool (actually it was a warm orangey-yellow), but adding another item made me nervous.  I mentioned it somewhat tentatively to the two fifth graders.  “Okay.  We can do that,” they said in unison.

Exhibit B:  On the day before the show we got several new slides that we needed to project onto the back of the stage during several scenes.  This would be another thing for the two “lights guys,” the fifth graders with the “no problem” attitude.  Again, they took the new additions in stride.  “Oh, yeah, we’ll just add ‘em in.  We’re taking turns on the computer.”

Exhibit C:  Fifteen minutes before the Friday night show, I make a reference to a song that I used in a slide show at the end of last year.  Then I apologize because I realize that even though I consider One Direction to be “current” music, the song actually came out when these kids were 3.  

“Oh, no worries,” says the fourth grader who’s working the ipad with all the background music, “I like a lot of old music.”  I snort, imagining what he’s thinking when he  says  “old music.”  “I actually like a lot of 90s music,” he says.  Then he really shocks me.  “Have you ever heard of a band called The Band?”  

“What?!  That’s not 90’s music, that’s like from when I was a kid.”  

He pauses to consider how old this makes me.  Then he asks, “What’s your favorite song of theirs?”  

I tell him that I’ve always like “Ophelia” and “Cripple Creek.”  But then I remember another song I really liked.  “My other favorite is kind of appropriate for today.  Did you ever hear the song ‘Stagefright’?”  

“I love that song!” he shouts.  “We should totally play that right now!  We should be playing pump up music out of the big speakers!  Can I make a playlist right now?!”  I look at my watch.  It’s literally 5 minutes before the show.  

“Uhh, no.  I don’t think we can do that.  If anything, I need some ‘calm down’ music.”   He sighs.  Old people.

Exhibit D:  On the afternoon of the second show, about 30 minutes before the curtains would part, I let slip that it is my mom’s 92nd birthday.  Normally, that wouldn’t be something to keep as a secret, but in this case it might have been wise.  O. (lights boy 1) is a man of action.  His first suggestion is that we all call her and sing to her.  I mention that it’s 30 minutes before the show, and we have some things to get organized.  By this time, though, we’ve been through a dress rehearsal and two shows.  He assures me that we have this down.  “I know,” he says, I’ll make a birthday slide and we can put it on the big screen.”

“Uhh.  I’m not so sure we should be messing with the slides.”

“It’s no big deal.  I’ll make the slide.  Then you can take a picture of it and send it to her.”

“Of course.”

I send the picture to my mom, mentioning that we have two shows that day and that I’ll try to call her between them.

She calls four times during Act 2.