A little over three years ago, my wife and I signed my son up for a summer activity, The Midland Park Players. This is a drama group that spends about three or four weeks preparing for a play and then showing it to the parents, friends and relatives. It’s always been done very well.
I don’t know if everyone’s child is like this, but my son is extremely reluctant to try new things. Knowing this, we signed him up for the program. We’ve found that it’s best to alert him to these kinds of things early and often. So, in order to overcome his natural reluctance, we told him early and did our best to make it sound like fun, etc. Even with a multi-month advertising campaign, he still wasn’t convinced. We forced him to do, though, and as is often the case, he had a great time.
By the time the second year rolled around, he had once again convinced himself that he didn’t want to participate. But, we had signed him up and on zero-day, I dropped him off one morning at the high school where they practice. When I went to pick him up after lunch, he was very excited, all smiles and announced, "The play is the Velveteen Rabbit and I want to be the Rabbit". He had spent literally months carrying on (sometimes hysterically) about how he didn’t want to have anything to do with Park Players and after the first day, he wants to be the lead role in the play. We’ve seen this pattern before.
(Much to our surprise, he did get the Rabbit role and he was amazing.)
Fast forward a few years. He’s been in Park Players three times now, so he’s something of a veteran. This summer (2008), Players starts up again. In the mean time, he’s finally convinced us he really doesn’t want to play soccer and he never liked basketball. That left him with no extra-curricular activities for late Winter / early Spring. A client with whom I was working mentioned that his daughter was in a program called Stage Right. Stage right is a slightly more expensive version of Park Players and it’s not in my town, but adjacent to it. Perfect.
The thing to know about that town is that it’s practically another country in terms of wealth. It has a high-frequency train right to Wall Street and NYC in general. It’s just a wealthy place. One of the on-going family discussion themes is whether we should have moved to that town instead of where we live now. It’s a bigger town, its schools offer more programs for the kids, etc. My wife grew up in that town and her parents live there, so we are "hooked in" despite not living there. I personally grew up in different circumstances in Massachusetts, so I don’t have a lot to say about this during family dinner conversation. This isn’t to say that we aren’t very happy where we live. We just know that that town is a level above our town economically.
Stage Right’s next program started too soon for us to launch our normal advertising campaign to overcome my son’s reluctance. This is when he came up with one my personal favorite arguments against doing something: "Friday nights are prime nights for sleep overs!" Stage Right was going to interfere with his weekend socials.
The day comes, we bring him there and drop him off and as with everything else, his natural love of just being alive took over and he’s been having a good time with it.
This past weekend my wife was talking to him and for the first time, I think he’s tailoring his discussions very precisely for his audience. She had asked him how Stage Right compares to Midland Park Players. He tells her that "In Park Players, we have teenagers that help us out. There aren’t any in in Stage Right. In Park Players, teenagers make all props. In Stage Right, we have to bring our own props. We have to do everything. And then he twists the knife: "I thought this was supposed to be a rich town."
All these years, I never really thought that he was hearing or understanding anything as it related to the "rich town". However, it turns out he was.