I was sitting having my coffee one morning in the last few weeks, enjoying the rising crescendo of birdsong, when I heard another type of song being sung.
At first, I thought I was just recalling an old memory in my mind as I watched the birds do what they do.
But then the song continued.
“There’s not a star in heaven that we can’t reach…”
I thought, Oh Dear God, no. Please.
It was #4 singing in her room and she belted out the rest:
“If we’re trying so we’re breaking free. You know the world can see us…”
She came flying down the stairs singing the rest of the song.
High. School. Musical.
She discovered it, she says. And she just can’t get enough.
Her older sisters peek out of their rooms sheepishly and I flash them the dirtiest of looks and say with an exasperated sigh, “We live in the middle of the jungle with no internet, I thought we were done with this.”
My oldest shook her head, “Mom, we will never be done.”
The saga of Troy and Gabriela have returned to our house. They had lived in our daily car rides, and in the karaoke system #3 had. She really loved the musical. They all did.
Except for #4 and #5 who were too young.
But now it’s reared it’s catchy show-tune head in our house again. I was even humming “Bop bop bop…bop to the top..” while working out. Ugh. We even watched High School Musical One the other night (oh yes, there is more than one). Slow internet and less access to it for downloading leaving us with minimal options. It’s been over ten years since my eldest was crazy for it.
It’s a cute vanilla high school story. The songs are catchy. There are fun dance numbers. And for my kids especially, high school is a fantastical reality that they will NEVER experience. They ogle at the cafeteria and are mesmerized by the lockers and the ringing bells – “so a bell has to remind you to get to class because you might forget to look at the time?”
Our eldest went to high school for one year so she regales them with tales of what it’s like – the rotation of classes, the busy work, and the offensive shop teacher.
I once mentioned here on the blog that musicals make everything better. As much as I hesitate to call this a musical, this has surprisingly made my fourth child a different person in the morning. The Eeyore/Darth Maul character that would greet the day now bounces down the stairs like a Tigger every morning humming tunes from this musical.
Instead of getting frustrated at this Disney musical invasion that I had weaned out of my house, I let it go because there is something more.
I look at her closely. She is in the throes of the middle years before teen-dom. For me, having three girls that have already been through puberty, adolescence really begins at 14.
That’s the thing about being with my kids at home. I get to see each and every growth – all of those breakthroughs and breakdowns. I sense changes in them long before the leap. It’s like a change in the wind – subtle yet distinct.
I know the signs:
- The making of one’s own playlist of music to listen to on car rides.
- The shifting from athletic clothes 24/7 to the occasional dress or frilly top.
- The brushing of the hair before we leave the house.
- The questions about whiter teeth and eye brow plucking and leg shaving.
- The curiosity about moon cycles.
- The frustration of being almost and not yet, but also too far and too big.
As she sings and dances around the house, it feels bittersweet because I know it’s coming. The last of my girls to transform into a young woman. No one tells you about teenagers or how to look at these middle years (12-14) as the bridge. This is the moment with one foot in childhood and one foot on the bridge, stepping to cross and enter that murky forest of body odor and bad moods.
But for my girls, and all of us women, it is also the place where we begin to live by, for, and with the moon. There is a cave there where we go when we want our privacy and where we question our sanity. It’s where we isolate to hear ourselves. But we also must remember that we are not alone.
When we come home, the three eldest go to their rooms. They change, they read, they nap, they find alone time. My fifth sits with his dad or me and asks about my day. (I can’t even tell you how adorable except that he would kill me.)
And lately, the fourth stops at the stairs. I watch her waver between leaving her bag and joining me on the couch with her cookbook as she sometimes does to plan with me her next baking adventure, or heading upstairs to her room to listen to “her music.” The the sign of things-a-changin.’ Sometimes she stays, but more often now, she goes.
But a mama knows how to stretch a little more time, how to get them to stay a little longer in one place, and not grow up too fast.
As she starts up the stairs, I start singing, “Soaring…Flying…” She turns and come back down belting out the next line, “There’s not a star in heaven that we can’t reach!” And we sing and we dance. As much as this musical makes me cringe, it is a way for me to keep tethered. Singing to cheesy musicals with her is my way of letting her know she is not alone and like all her other sisters, we’re “all in this together.”