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I am a proud mother this morning.
I have just returned from my daughter’s school, where a she sang a beautiful solo and had one of the prinicipal parts in a musical show.
Today, I was mostly fascinated by her ability to remember hundreds of lines (and I didn’t ONCE see her learning or practising them at home!) and her supreme confidence when faced with an audience, despite having to come in quietly singing a top D!
It reinforces my belief that taking part in drama, music and/or movement activities as a child is SO beneficial to their development as rounded, confident people.
Both of my children, being avid thespians, have been attending drama clubs or similar for a few years, and the changes I have noticed in them is considerable. Their speech is clearer, they project well, they make confident eye-contact, they have a diverse range of facial expressions and just seem better able to connect with that core of joy which is buried within each of us – some more deeply than others.
It is all about communication. I believe that people who have good communication skills are more likely to achieve their goals in life.
Daughter has always been skilled at communicating, but Son’s abilities in this sphere were erratic. Enough to cause us minor concern. Despite being fiercely bright and intelligent, his social skills were…um… limited, shall we say? His main objective at any point, was to OBSERVE, and no doubt, this has served him well in developing his intellect; however, during group activities at pre-school, for instance, he’d often be conspicuous by his frozen posture, blank face and half-open mouth. That was his ‘concentration face’.
One time, as we were leaving the dear, long-departed Woolworths, a young girl – also about 3 years old – skipped up to him and smiled into his face. Son looked thunderstruck.
She looked him up and down, then asked, “What’s your name?”
Son started to move away, with infinitesimal care – as if he’d just discovered an unexploded bomb.
Disregarding his stupefied expression, she closed the gap and repeated the question. “Hi. What’s your name?”
I watched him with half amusement, half exasperation, and was just about to step in, when he made the most extraordinary noise – a brief explosive sound, somewhere between ‘coughing out a fly that flew down your throat’ and a duck’s quack.
The little girl gave him a dirty look and skipped away.
I was reeling.
How could a little boy who could already read, recite large chunks of stories and poems, do hundred piece puzzles unaided, and draw so beautifully, be INCAPABLE of answering a simple question from a peer? He spoke to adults very articulately and, with his well-loved family, was lively and animated. How could a simple question from a stranger his own age, turn him into a petrified, gibbering fool?
I tried to explain to him that she was just a little girl, that she understood English, and that he should speak to other children in the same way he spoke to us. He just looked at me blankly.
Although we didn’t make a big thing of it, Hubby and I were both concerned about it, though we found it uncomfortably comical as well.
I watched my son carefully as he started school. He was never particularly communicative with other children, but the teachers assured me he was doing fine.
A few years on, when he started drama club, I wondered how he would manage – whether the task of speaking out loud and interacting with lots of other children would be overwhelming for him.
Then, one evening, at the drama club’s showcase – a medley of songs, acting and dancing – I watched my son singing a duet with an older boy. He’d been very nonchalant after each rehearsal, and hadn’t even told me that he had a solo!
I was absolutely floored by his performance. Not only was his voice pure and beautiful, he communicated the lyrics – he LIVED the words like a true actor. I was totally unprepared to see him succeeding so well in this context, and tears flowed from my eyes unchecked. I could no more help them than hold back the sea.
All I could think about was his quiet, solemn childhood; his careful risk assessment of every single activity that involved other children; his reluctance to throw himself into life… not to mention the bizarre response to the Woolworths girl.
When I saw him owning the stage, brimming with confidence, thrilling the audience, I finally realised how worried I had been for so many years. It was a huge relief.
And that is what the creative arts can do for a child. There is no bigger endorsement than that. Drama, music and community turned a child who couldn’t answer a simple question, into a child who could stand on stage in front of a hundred people… and SING. Communicate.
Who knows what doors music and drama will open for our children? Who knows how the reverberations from their childhood experiences will impact on their futures?
I don’t know. But it is worth considering, if you’ve ever called your child a ‘drama queen’ (and haven’t we all?!) giving them the opportunity to channel that drama into something positive and joyful.