Today is your 11th birthday, London.

I wasn’t there the day you were born but I can only imagine you came out wide eyed, looking around for clues as to what life would look like. You’ve always been a watch first, act second kind of kid. But nothing gets past you.

When you started preschool, you were shy to the point that when the teachers tried to give you an entrance assessment, you stared at them blankly instead of answering questions. They tried three times before telling us “Well, I guess she’ll just make huge strides this year and her end assessment will show it.”

And you did. You loved preschool. I would pick you up and you would talk to me the entire ride home, relaying every important detail of the day such as what you had for snack and what games you played on the playground.

A few months into the year, the lead preschool teacher pulled me aside at pickup. She apologetically told me that she felt badly that you weren’t enjoying school. I was confused because you clearly LOVED school. I asked why the teacher would think that and she said it was because you didn’t talk. Ever. Apparently you were saving up all of the Goldfish and tire swing gossip for me and Dad.

“She’s an observer,” I said. “And she loves coming to school here. She will speak up when she is ready.” The teacher seemed relieved.

By January, London, you were a clear leader in the preschool group — talking, singing, answering questions, helping friends with their crafting skills and leading games on the playground. At the end of the year, your teachers recognized you with the “Blossom Award” for coming into your own that year.

Fast forward a few years to the age of 8. You had been taking musical theater classes for a few years with your siblings and quietly enjoying them. I was planning to enroll the family in the summer musical The Wizard of Oz — a first for all of you kids. You were thrilled and started watching Dorothy sing Over the Rainbow repeatedly on Netflix and skipping over those dreadful flying monkeys.

Then you learned that there was an audition to get into the summer musical and you changed your tune.

“Everyone gets a part. This is just practice for the real world of theater,” I told you. You shook your head violently “no.”

Up until this point, I had paid tuition for you to show up at theater class. Now that you had to step into the spotlight, you were recoiling. Everyone in the family kept reassuring you that it really wouldn’t be so bad to audition — in fact, you’d probably have fun. But the day of the audition arrived and you flat out refused to audition. I wanted you to participate so I asked the musical’s director if you could potentially help behind the scenes or do something else related to the show.

I dropped you and your sisters off at the first rehearsal, with you attending as junior stage manager, and you were happy to be there — and still steadfast with your decision not to audition. A few weeks into rehearsals, I arrived to pick the three of you up and was surprised to see you dancing and singing in a group number.

“Are you in that song now?” I asked.

“Yeah, just to help out,” you responded.

By the end of the rehearsal process, you had five ensemble roles in the show and were still pitching in as junior stage manager.

You’re an observer. You just needed the time to feel comfortable enough to participate.

Today, you are spending your 11th birthday performing in a live recording of BIG the Musical. It was supposed to be performed with an audience, but due to the coronavirus pandemic, it will be recorded and tickets sold virtually. Next month, you will perform in a live-audience rendition of Matilda Jr. (another musical). In both, you have named roles, lines, and songs to sing. You continue to blossom on stage, just like you did in that preschool class 7 years ago.

And your family members aren’t the only ones to notice. The director of BIG pulled me aside (there’s a pattern with you) the other night at the end of rehearsal to tell me how pleased she is with your confidence and development on stage.

“I see her making choices on stage,” she said. “Remember when she wouldn’t audition for the Wizard of Oz? That’s so hard to imagine now.”

So London as you continue life in the double digits, just a few years shy of your teen ones, I hope you continue to be a determined observer of life and make conscious choices about when and how you will participate in it. Guard that trait because it will lead you to the things that truly matter in your life.

Happy birthday, London. Thanks for letting me have a front row seat.

Category: Birthdays

Tags: 11th birthday