Kansas Snapshots by Gloria Freeland - April 8, 2011


As our children mature, we parents inevitably experience a time when that once-helpless offspring can do something we can't. The first time it happens is a wake-up call that our job as a parent is a transient one. More reminders follow.

In younger daughter Katie's case, several of those "somethings" come to mind. For example, while I think I dress quite presentably, Katie has a fashion sense that I don't have and never will.

An art assignment earlier this year is another example. It was part of a project where pictures taken of small boys and girls in orphanages overseas are sent to art teachers in the U.S. Each art student paints a picture from one of the children's photos. Then the painting is sent to the orphan. Since most of the orphans have nothing to call their own, the idea was not to just give them something, but something that was uniquely theirs. While the idea of doing something for someone less fortunate a world away is a nice one, I was amazed that Katie's painting actually looked like the little girl in her photo. For me, stick figures are a challenge.

While I marvel at the abilities she has that I don't, I'm particularly envious about one. Several weeks ago, Katie's voice teacher called and asked if Katie would sing the national anthem at a sporting event. I couldn't imagine doing that even if I could sing. I do NOT like the spotlight! Sure, the people who would attend wouldn't be there for the purpose of hearing it sung. But it is a piece that covers a fair vocal range, and many people in the audience would know the words and tune. The margin of acceptable error would be small.

But Katie barely gave it a thought before saying she would do it.

That's not to say she doesn't still get butterflies before she has to perform. But she now seems to know something I never learned ... how to deal with them.

As much as I try to avoid it, my job often requires that I stand in the spotlight. In those situations, comfort for me depends upon knowing what is going to happen and seeing it unfold as planned. The event Katie agreed to do - a wrestling meet - certainly did not fill that bill. She had imagined there would be just a few people scattered throughout the gym. So we were surprised when we arrived and discovered both school parking lots were packed and vehicles were parked on the shoulders of the nearby roads. Inside, the bleachers were full and every square foot of the gym floor was covered with kids practicing before their matches began. The halls were jammed as well.

If by some mental error I had been the one who had agreed to sing, the packed house would have left me desperately wondering if it was too late to say I had suddenly become ill.

Yet Katie seemed unfazed.

A search for the event organizer commenced. Details about such matters as whether Katie would be using a microphone or just relying on the strength of her voice were still to be settled.

The search was in vain, so Art and Katie headed off for the seclusion of the music room where Katie could warm up They discovered it had been taken over by two fellows with laptops who were registering the meet's contestants. The line stretched out the door and down the hall.

But Katie took all these changes and uncertainties in stride. Without batting an eye, she went into a warm-up room and prepared.

Fifteen minutes later, she was in front of the crowd, singing as if it were something that happened every day. It went very well and she received a nice hand from the crowd.

Still, she was relieved it was over.

But it wasn't over!

She had no more than finished, when a fellow at the scoring table asked her to follow him. A few minutes later, they entered the other gym. It, too, was filled with fans. She had to do it all again!

And again, she did fine.

These are not isolated incidents either. Earlier this spring, her voice teacher presented her with another "opportunity." She asked Katie if she would be willing to sing at Vocal Arts Day on the K-State campus. The audience was 400 of the top voice students from across the state. She and two others would be guinea pigs for the university's voice teachers. While I would have been petrified even considering such a situation, Katie took the offer as a compliment. She accepted the offer and did it well.

Another incident came this past Saturday. Katie received a top score at the regional vocal competition and so will go on to compete for state-wide honors. Returning home in the evening, we discovered a letter in the mail from the K-State music department. It informed Katie she had been awarded another scholarship.

"Well, that was a nice way to end the day," she cheerily commented.

I thought how differently I would have felt. If I had just spent the day performing before a judge and my fellow music students who had been practicing for weeks. I would have been completely drained and doubt even the scholarship would have been able to make me feel cheerful.

Events such as these are what a former student of Art's calls happy-sad-happy ones. As a parent, I am happy because I see my child maturing as I hoped she would. Yet that happiness is tinged with sadness because each one is a reminder that I am leaving behind forever my past role.

But in balance, it is more happy than sad.

Student teacher Chance Gates, far left, and Choir Director and Vocal Teacher Janie Brokenicky,
holding the handbag, and their students could smile once the judging was over last Saturday.
Katie is second from the right.

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