Wednesday, May 13, 2009

What Acting Taught Me about Motherhood

This picture has nothing to do with this entry, but can you blame me for posting it?

I've spoken at length on this blog about how teaching has prepared me for motherhood. If there was ever a job that made for the perfect transition into parenthood, it would be teaching. Although I'm still not perfect at this motherhood thing, using my skills has a teacher has been invaluable.

For example, I recently had an hour-long wait at the dermatologist's office. Stella was with me, and as you can guess, she doesn't do well with the whole sit still and quietly for any length of time. (What kid does, though, really?) Figuring this might be a problem, I brought the following in her diaper bag: two books, three toys, a bottle of water, a sippy cup of whole milk, a container of Cheerios, a banana, and wipes. We went through all of the above in about ten minutes, so then I moved onto my hand, which became the following: a puppet, a tickle monster, a prop for her favorite song about opening and shutting your hands, etc.

One hour and one examination later: no tears. I was even complimented by everyone on how calm and well-behaved my little angel was. Little did they know, one false move (0r moment of inactivity), and the office would have been chaotic indeed.

This all stems from field trips. I'll never forget my first field trip -- just me, the kids and a couple of parents. What else did I need, I figured? Well, a garbage bag for that kid to puke into would have been nice, as would some paper towels to clean it all up. Perhaps if I'd brought some saltines or hard candy, that could have been avoided in the first place. I should have brought an extra lunch or two, as many students forgot theirs, and I probably should have brought my own lunch as well. Money to pay for tolls on our bus trip? Hey, that would have been nice. A camera to capture those precious moments? Good idea!

You get the idea. Within a couple of years of teaching I learned what all good Girl Scouts would have told me: always be prepared.

So, yeah, teaching is a great prep course for parenthood. (And a darned good profession in many other ways, I must say.)

But what about all those years I spent as a theater bum? Don't they account for anything? I mean, aside from the crazy debt I racked up that I FINALLY paid off last month?

I wasn't the best actor in the world. I mean, there's a reason I wrangle babies and 4th graders rather than have my name in lights on Broadway. But somewhere between playing an Irish lass in college and a Jewish grandmother in New York (my off-off-Broadway debut at the ripe old age of 23), I got pretty good and summoning up personal experiences to help me understand a character.

I'd remember a certain idiotic ex-boyfriend if I had to feign heartache. I reflected on my first trip to Europe if I had to conjure up excitement. I delved into the grief I felt when I lost my grandfather to help me find despair. You know -- textbook Method acting stuff that Lawrence Olivier made fun of.

Well, it may not have made my acting any more amazing, but it's helping me as a mom. Because on days like today when Stella is a cranky, teething ball of temper and tears, it's easy to feel helpless and frantic.

Instead, believe it or not, I'm remembering the night I gave birth. Surrounded by two of the people I love the most in this world -- Dave and my mom -- I felt completely alone. I couldn't stand to be spoken to, but I screamed out if left alone in a room. I wanted the lights off and then was annoyed by how dark it was. My amazing doula, Julie, set forth delicious lavender oil that one moment soothed me and the next made me nauseous.

And my dear husband, mom and doula stayed right there through it all. Patient, loving, giving me the space I needed yet never leaving my side. I realized the minute it was over that they reacted perfectly.

So today, when Stella pushes me away, screaming, I remember how it feels to be that annoyed and unhappy. And I give her her space. Then I give her a teething biscuit. Then a chilled washcloth. Then my breast.

Who said a drama major was worthless?

1 comment:

alexlady said...

i hope you make your foot talk for her sometimes.