The School Years | The Power of a Good Geek Out
My 10 year old counted down days until the release of Les Misérables this Christmas. She and her best friend had spent November and December memorizing song after song from the original Broadway score.
I debated whether she was old enough. There are some pretty weighty concepts in that thar’ Broadway show: redemption, grace, revenge, class warfare, martyrdom to a revolution. So really, pretty much like High School Musical.
I bought the tickets. We scrunched down into our seats, and as the first driving notes crashed through the theater, she leaned over and whispered “Mom? Does this have a happy ending??” “Oh yeah, Sweetie,” I whispered back. “so happy.”
I then spent the next two and a half hours watching my girl teeter on the edge of adolescent awareness, the precise boundary of that liminal space between girl and grownup. Should I have thought to explain the song “Lovely Ladies” and its prostitutes beforehand? Most definitely. Did I need to warn her that her favorite character, the loveable beggar boy Gavroche, gets shot down at the barricades? No.
I watched as she covered her head fully with her winter coat in the scariest of battle scenes. Hugged her close as the tears streamed down her face at the death of Gavroche. At the end, the movie finishes with a beautiful scene of Jean Valjean realizing the worth of his life, and urging his daughter to go love her new husband fully and freely. It was my turn for tears to flow. My sensitive, intuitive girl leaned over to me and muttered skeptically “soo….Mom. This is the happy ending you were talking about?”
For me, that was all of it in one sentence. She is ten. She’s delighted to share in my geeky love of Broadway shows, happy to belt out choruses to our hearts’ content in the car, thrilled to get an afternoon of mom to herself. I had a glimpse of all that we might share as she gets older, the first glimmers of her passions and joys. And…she is ten. A scene of reconciliation and redemption at death’s door isn’t supposed to thrill her like a scene of a revolutionary crushing on the rich girl. The thrill of brave boys on the barricade will surprise and delight her.
You may not geek out over Broadway shows. For you and your kids it might be European football, collecting Beatles LPs or robotics championships. But with these rapidly changing kids, the magic is that daily you get to see the pieces clicking into place, you feel the questions brimming on their lips, you sense the ah-ha moments happening. It’s just as exciting as watching them take first steps, or learn first words, or sleep through the night.
Fine: not as thrilling as sleeping through the night. Nothing ever is.