My parents are coming up from southern Cal. to see my son's school play, and these visits are bittersweet. The boys are thrilled whenever Gramma & Grampa can come see them sing, dance, play the drums, play soccer, play saxophone, etc., but it generally means the weekend is crammed full of places to go, which doesn't leave them much bonding time. In fact, every time my father is summoned to one of these performances, he offers "to give the kid a herring". (In case you don't get my father's very strange sense of humor, that's his way of saying we're treating the kids like trained seals.)
I can honestly say I'm not a stage mother. (And my husband is trying not to laugh as he reads this.) Having music directed and taught voice lessons for years, I've seen truly nightmarish behavior (the mom who couldn't eat for a week when her daughter didn't get the lead, the family who praised their son's bravery in dropping out of the show because he was only offered chorus, for which he was far too talented). I don't do any of that, and I hope I've taught my kids to cope with the ups and downs inherent in the arts. (I once mentioned to David that one key to theatrical success was resiliency, the ability to bounce back from disappointments. His response was, "If all it takes is having learned to deal with rejection, I should have a great career!")
But I ache for my kids when they're disappointed, I try to boost their confidence before auditions or tryouts, and I schlep them to the dance classes & drum lessons they ask for. (A few weeks ago, I found myself reprimanding my oldest, saying, "David, if you don't unload the dishwasher, you can't go to ballet!", and thinking, hmmm, this is not your typical punishment for a 15-year-old boy!)
And, of course, I go to the performances, I squint to see David in the back row of dancing gamblers, I try to hear Ben's bongo solo in the band concert, I cheer whenever they get a featured moment, and I always compliment them with a big smile. I've been doing it for enough years that the smiling is easier, as the quality of the performances improve. (Which is a relief, if you've ever attended a 5th grade band concert and listened to what sounds like a bunch of moose in a blender screeching "Frere Jacques"). David's high school does great, professional level shows - of course, the flip side is that they have long, demanding rehearsals, parents have lots of volunteer duties, and we're all totally sleep deprived this week. But tonight's opening will be amazing, my parents will be suitably impressed, and I think we'll bring David flowers instead of a herring.