Tuesday, July 10, 2012

My Life With Ethel

Seven is the age of reason, as the saying goes, and as it turns out, with good reason:

‘In Medieval times, court apprenticeships began at 7; so too did apprenticeships at the time of the Guilds, and in English Common Law, children under 7 were not considered responsible for their behaviour. The Catholic Church offers first Communion at about age 7; it's also when formal schooling begins in most societies.’ (Brodkin)

I have to say, as a parent of a seven year old, it is a wonderful age. I have noticed a palpable shift in our relationship this year: it’s still mother-and-daughter, but I can see a little glint of true friendship sparking just beneath the surface.

Seven for many kids, in addition to being the age of reason, is also around the time that they really start to become aware of their talents. They start to realise that maybe they are crap at sports, but man, can they decoupage. Ok, they can only draw stick figures, but they can beat Grandma at checkers. Every time. What’s better: they start to become okay with that. Phew. What a milestone from a parenting perspective. (This is also why not everyone needs a trophy for every activity at the end of the season – it’s no longer developmentally appropriate – but that’s another topic entirely.)

I suppose most parents start to tune in to their child’s talents and abilities much sooner than the child himself actually does – hence, the age of reason. In my case, I was certainly aware of where Eva’s potential interests, or perhaps even talents, might lie: considering that her life has been ‘one big dramatic performance up to this point,’* I knew that channelling that into children’s theatre would be a good thing. And I’m happy to report that it has been. Eva’s most recent role (in addition to the daily performances she gives around here) has been the tortoise in ‘The Tortoise and the Hare’. She’s got an outlet, I get to see the good side of this ability and it’s cheaper than therapy. We’re both happy.

But there is another, ahem, ‘talent’ that lends itself well to her inborn theatrical abilities, and that is Eva’s singing. Her love of singing didn’t come as any surprise, since she would sing whatever she could from a very young age, eg, ‘I’m puuuttttin’ on my UNNNdeeeeeeesss now, UNNNdeeeeeeeesss now…!’ She writes songs – not that she has any knowledge of writing music, but she’ll have a bank of lyrics ready for when she does. In fact, her singing has become so constant, I don’t know how she is able to contain her urge for the six-and-a-half hour school day. Sometimes I feel like I’m trapped in one long, plotless musical, the only escape from which is her bedtime.

I wouldn’t really call myself a fan of the genre of musical theatre either – in my experience, I just start to get into the story, just start to care about the characters and they lose me by bursting suddenly into song: I get it already, I feel your pain, you don’t need to supplement your current crisis with song. Really.

Most recently, (the gods clearly have a sense of humour) Eva’s singing has taken on this big-voiced Ethel Merman-esque quality. Every number has to be big, big, big. It’s like I’m trapped in a Cole Porter hell, although she does do a mean cover of Amy Winehouse’s ‘Rehab.’ Occasionally, mid-number, I ask Eva a question I have no interest in knowing the answer to, just to break her from her reverie. I’ve even had to introduce a few rules, like ‘No singing at the dinner table’. Sometimes, she drives her brothers crazy with the singing, and I have to be Switzerland, even though I, too want to scream, ‘Will you PLEASE just give the show tunes a freakin’ break already?!?!’

It’s funny, but as any parent will tell you, they are born who they are. Parents guide, encourage, nurture, expose to opportunity, and perhaps most important of all – tolerate. After all, ‘Everything’s Coming Up Roses.’

*(This quote is actually taken from my friend Linda’s imagined response to the question, ‘Does your child have any experience with drama or in theatre? on her own daughter’s camp application. Thanks, Lin!)

Read the full article ‘The Age of Reason’ by Adele M Brodkin, PhD, at http://www.scholastic.com/browse/article.jsp?id=7241


  1. Let her sing, but I might be a little concerned about her using Amy Winehouse as her role model. In your nascent mother/daughter friendship, you might steer her towards some other....

    Very thoughtful piece. Good work!