Performance Anxiety, or, the day I finally understood “One Froggy Evening”

As proud parents T and I are always so excited to share our new discoveries of what little L can do. Again, when it’s your own kid, pretty much everything is amazing and exciting and undeniably new. Nobody but this child has done things in his particular order, and we cherish each and every new addition to his life’s experiences. But it does make me chuckle to see what happens when we compel little L to “perform” in front of his, or our, friends.

Last week I enjoyed L’s new participation in my musical endeavors. Those of you who know me well will also remember how much I love to sing. Now that I have my very own little one, I can easily extend this joy of singing and choral music to chiming in with my little guy every day of the year. It’s a big consolation for not having time to join a choir! Many tunes tend to infiltrate my singing extravaganzas – some Peter Paul and Mary, songs from The Elephant Show, nursery rhyme songs, some songs from Girl Scouts . .Mary Poppins, whatever pops into the old noggin – but a few go on repeat – such as “You are My Sunshine,” which is one of my favorite songs from my days of singing in the newborn nursery to little premature babies. (It may have been volunteer work at the time I was in medical school, but doing “music therapy” never felt like “work”!)

Lest I digress too much, I was singing my usual “You are my Sunshine” to little L on the car ride home. As I ended the refrain and went into the second verse I heard a little “Yaaaaaay” and a clap clap clap sound, and then after I sang the second verse and refrain again he repeated the “Yeeeeaaaayayayy!” Pausing, I began to realize that he was responding to the song. He was cheering me on! Animatedly I began to sing “Itsy Bitsy Spider” and as I completed the verse he immediately cheered. Amazing. I was in awe.

A digression – pretty leaves

I would like to think he just likes to hear mommy sing, but I think he had developed and practiced his responses while in daycare, where they traditionally cheer at the end of the songs. Oh the things they learn. You see, he cheers only for a few songs, but when I break into a showtune or a new nursery rhyme tune, the response is crickets, pretty much.

So that evening I raced onto Skype to share this newfound discovery with T and the rest of the family. By phone things seemed to work out, but the minute that I put L on video chat with his family and sang my tunes, I heard crickets, again. Like Warner Brothers’ Michigan J. Frog, the little man only performs at his convenience; he decidedly does not perform for audiences. And cheering is no exception.

Truly, I did not appreciate the plight of “One Froggy Evening’s” hapless showbiz agent until this moment. You see the talent, you see the discovery right in front of you, and you dive headfirst into a duet with your child. Yet within moments you realize that you are at the mercy of your performer to deliver his little baby toddler punchline. And it may, or may not arrive. This scenario has repeated itself countless times in the past five days, when L who has learned “No nononono” will not always say it, and when he will repeat 10 words in front of dad but when commanded in front of an auntie he zips his mouth shut. At least he is eating more these days and isn’t afraid to show that newfound talent off to the nearest spectator! How he shoves those bits of food in and claps for himself oh so proudly. What can I say, sometimes the performer performs.