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Mother of the Star

Malki Lowinger

The lights dim, the curtain rises, and the orchestra strikes the opening chord. The audience silently leans forward, waiting. But there are some women who are not simply leaning; they are sitting at the edge of their seats. And when their child dances out from the wings, they breathlessly absorb a moment of absolute terror — and absolute nachas

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

The huge, darkened auditorium was filled to capacity with hundreds of women. Chaya* couldn’t help but overhear a group of women marveling at the performance. “Oooohh,” one woman said to her friend. “Look at that little girl. She dances like an angel.”

There are times when even the most reserved and reticent among us just have to speak out. This was one of them. “That,” Chaya whispered loudly, “is my daughter!”

Every mother wants her child to thrive, and if possible, to shine. Piano lessons, dance classes, art workshops, even creative writing seminars … we mothers try almost anything in the hope of discovering a latent talent or a hidden gift. If we’re lucky enough to find one, we will do what we can to develop that skill and polish that gem until it sparkles.

But at what price?



Randy lives in Teaneck and her nine-year-old son DJ is a member of a prestigious boys choir. According to Randy, DJ was musically inclined since he was little. When DJ was accepted into a choir, Randy’s husband was initially thrilled. "And then he said, ‘Uh oh, now we’re going to have to schlep into Brooklyn for practice.’”

Choir practice is usually held once a week, but before a concert performance, practices are held more frequently. This means that parents of an aspiring entertainer, especially those who live in distant locations, will spend many hours playing the role of designated driver. That’s difficult enough during the normal course of the year, but it’s especially frustrating during those hectic weeks before Pesach and Succos or a family simchah.

Tanya, who lives in Hillside New Jersey, is proud of her three sons who are in a choir. But she also remembers spending as many as six hours at a time in the car. “They used to rehearse in Far Rockaway,” Tanya remembers, “and that’s two hours away from us. If you figure two hours traveling each way plus two hours at rehearsal, that’s a huge commitment of time.” Were there times she thought it just wasn’t worth the trouble? Not really. “I did it for the cause,” she says.

The commitment to attend rehearsals is a hefty, even for those who are lucky enough to form a neighborhood car pool. Randy often finds herself sitting behind the wheel of the car from 5 to 10 p.m., picking up and dropping off various children all over the neighborhood. Very often, the boys have no choice but to eat a quick dinner while they're on the road.

I catch up with Tanya on a Thursday evening, as she sits in her car on a dark Brooklyn side street, waiting for rehearsal to end. She agrees that she’s not thrilled about spending so much time away from her other children, but she also offers a different perspective. She calls it “commitment.” “What we’re doing,” she says, “is similar to those parents whose children are training to become professional ice skaters or gymnasts. If you decide that’s what you want for your child, you have to commit yourself to it.”



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