Don’t invite me to your child’s recital. Or dance performance. Or swim meet. I’m going to cry. Don’t invite me to their poetry readings or moving up ceremonies or God forbid, their weddings. I will cry, cry, cry.
I can’t help it. Something changed in me when I became a parent. Now, when I see somebody’s son or daughter being so brave, getting up on stage to sing a mangled version of Taylor Swift’s “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together (Ever),” I have to fight to hold back a flood of tears, and it isn’t because that song was way overplayed and indicates a narcissistic arrogance and lack of self-examination on the part of Taylor Swift. No, I will sob because I am so proud of that kid for getting up there and singing. I sob because I know there is another mom or dad who is probably very proud of their child, or should be, even when they get the words wrong. I sob because now that I’m a parent, I feel like every child is my child, and I want them to succeed.
I don’t even have to know the child! During a talent show at my daughter’s school last year, I was tearing up the whole time, and my child wasn’t even in it. I teared up while some girls sang a duet, then teared up some more when some kids performed dances from India, and more when a little boy hit some buckets during a “drum” performance. (I will admit that I stopped crying long enough to chuckle when a second grade boy sang “Some Nights” by the band fun, earnestly repeating the line about having a “martyr in my bed tonight.” He clearly did not understand what he was singing, thank goodness. If he did, I would have cried some different tears!) And when Kelly Clarkson sang at the president’s inauguration, I cried because I was just so gosh-darned proud of her and knew she must feel proud of herself, too, and that made me feel so happy.
So when my daughter had her first recital last week, I expected to cry a lot, and I did. For the little boy who forgot the words to “We’re Off to See the Wizard,” and the girl who sang a song from Les Miserable, and for the adorable little girl who sang with every single muscle in her body completely stone still. I cried with the pride of all their moms and dads.
But then something surprising happened. When my daughter got up to sing, with her dad next to her on guitar, I was ready to bawl. But I didn’t. Not one drop fell from my eyes. I just smiled the whole time, because this time, I wasn’t feeling anyone else’s pride, just my own happiness. Around me, strangers were teary as my daughter sang beautifully, and I nodded in understanding. But I didn’t need to cry.
When my husband sat back down after performing with our daughter, I noted that his eyes were wet. He laughed and said it was only because I was crying and it made him emotional. I just smiled because my eyes were dry. Those tears of pride were all his own.