"Worth Revisit: Parenting in Public" by Barb Szyszkiewicz @franciscanmom

#WorthRevisit: Parenting in Public

In two days, Tech Week starts at the high school. TheKid is playing Lord Farquaad in the school’s production of “Shrek,” his fourth time participating in the high-school musical–but his first time as an actual high-school student.

Tech Week at this school features Tech Week dinners, coordinated by a group of parents with themes and fun and a good (not fast-food) meal for the entire cast, crew, orchestra and directorial staff. This will be my 6th year helping out with these dinners.

Five years ago, I found myself parenting very publicly at one of these dinners. Cue soundtrack: “Walking on Broken Glass.”

"Worth Revisit: Parenting in Public" by Barb Szyszkiewicz @franciscanmom
Those windows at left rear? The broken glass in question. Copyright 2016 Barb Szyszkiewicz. All rights reserved.

Little Brother’s not in the play this year, but he’s at Tech Week Dinners with me because there’s no one else at home to watch him at that time. This year, he’s the only grade-school kid there. He eats with the kids, his old buddies from his Munchkin days during Wizard of Oz last spring. He’s even made a few new friends among the students, including one young man who was kicking a soccer ball around with him outside the cafeteria after dinner tonight.

I was helping to put away the drink coolers when we heard a crash. Sure enough, that soccer ball had sailed through one of the cafeteria windows. And all the other parents were watching as I ran to the door, spied my son, and ordered, “Get in here.”

“Get in here,” I heard someone chuckle behind me. (Seriously? You’re going to laugh at me now?) Clearly I was on the stage, with an audience of more than 20 parents and grandparents who were clearly glad not to be in my shoes. So I took it outside, where my little boy and his soccer-playing buddy both assured me that my son wasn’t the guilty party. The young man who’d been playing soccer with him showed me his own feet, trying to convince me that Little Brother’s legs aren’t powerful enough to have kicked the ball through the window. After sending Little Brother to the car to put away the soccer ball, I took off my apron and started picking up the few shards of glass that had fallen outside the building. Did you know that aprons are good for picking up–and holding–broken glass, so you don’t cut your hands while you do that job?

The vice principal is also in charge of stage crew, so before long he was in the cafeteria talking to my son and the high-school boy. Again, lots of parents were watching as I told the vice principal that whether or not Little Brother had kicked it, he had been the one to bring the ball to the dinner, so he should share in the damages. The other student was trying to take all the blame upon himself, and I insisted (and will follow up) that we divide the bill for the glass replacement. Little Brother insisted that he would pay for it with his own money. While a custodian taped cardboard over the broken window, I returned to the kitchen to finish cleaning up. The parents wanted to know if I was OK.

Aside from a few bonus blood-pressure points, I was fine. Actually, I was impressed with the student who tried to deflect the blame from my child, willing to take all of it (including a financial penalty) on himself. I was more annoyed with the parents who said, “You shouldn’t have to pay for that. It’s a cost of doing business.” No. It’s not. My kid was playing soccer against the side of a building–in an area where there were windows. It was an accident waiting to happen and we’re all very lucky that no one got hurt. I was annoyed with myself for not stopping him sooner. I was annoyed with the parents who laughed at my initial reaction, which I found remarkably restrained, considering.

The soccer ball won’t be coming back to Tech Week Dinners. We will pay our half of the glass bill and Little Brother will have to contribute to that. And I can’t help but wish that the parents who seemed to think that Little Brother and I should let a teenage boy shoulder all the blame for this–and the ones who seemed to think that neither soccer player was at fault at all–had taken a page from that teenager’s script.

We parents have our work on display at all times, every time our child leaves the house for the day at school. “By their fruits you shall know them,” after all. I hope that Little Brother learned a lesson or two tonight. I don’t know if the Play Parents did. And if I ever get to meet the parents of a certain teenager, I’ll be sure to tell them that they can be very proud of their son, who politely and immediately claimed and accepted responsibility for his role (and more than his role) in the breaking of that window.

worth revisit

I’m linking up with Reconciled to You and Theology is a Verb for #WorthRevisit Wednesday, a place where you can come and bring a past & treasured post to share, and link up with fellow bloggers!

Copyright 2017 Barb Szyszkiewicz, OFS

Tickets, Please

A theatre box office is an interesting place. The hour before a performance is a frenzy of activity that includes handling the voice mail that has come in since the last time the office was open, selling walk-up tickets, printing will-call tickets, printing tickets for people whose printers ran out of ink or who forgot them at home or who didn’t realize that they had to print the tickets immediately even though there are instructions that say just that.

Those are the easy jobs. It’s pretty simple to make a theatregoer happy when you can reprint that ticket she left on the table near the front door.

But sometimes you have to do difficult jobs when you work in the box office. Sometimes you have to return phone calls and let someone down, because the show is sold out. Sometimes you have to turn people away who show up in person, hoping seats will open up. When the box office is part of a small theatre with no space for extra seating, you don’t get to be flexible there. But I can assure you that the box-office staff and the house manager do their best to find seats to accommodate people whenever possible.

I staffed the box office for 10 out of 12 weekend performances of a community-theatre production these past two weeks. And I did all those things I listed above, and then some. Most of the time it was enjoyable work. But it was Saturday’s final show that did me in.

The show was sold out, and we were able to scrape up a couple of tickets here and there (like when someone realized they really wanted two tickets to Sunday’s show instead of Saturday’s.) So on Friday night when I got a voicemail from someone’s dad with a sob story about how Grandma changed her hair appointment so she could see a show on Saturday that she didn’t even have a ticket for, I got to be the hero of the day. I didn’t have such great news for the mom who called wanting six tickets and telling me a long story about how her child was in the show and she hadn’t seen it yet and she’d promised her daughter that she could bring a bunch of friends but by the time they all got back to her, the show was sold out.

I had two tickets available at that point. The best I could do was to sell her those two tickets and put her on the waiting list for the other four.

At 8:30 Saturday morning that mom called to let me know she only needed three more tickets, and to ask if I had found any yet. I apologized, but promised that I’d put the word out among the moms helping in the green room and the moms selling candygrams and the mom scanning tickets at the door. If anyone heard that someone had a ticket they wouldn’t be using, they promised to send them to the box office.

Box office sq

I never did get those extra tickets. The dad, with Hair-Appointment Grandma in tow, picked up his ticket with a charming smile. Then No-Ticket Mom asked, and was disappointed, about those extra tickets. Suddenly that dad was back at the ticket window.

“Do you see that lady with the three little girls?” he demanded. “She’s going to have to leave here and take them home because there aren’t any tickets for them.”

I apologized (again) that no more tickets were available. I politely refused his request to have extra chairs brought in, and his subsequent demand that the three little girls stand in the aisle during the show. There’s no room for either of those things. But this guy was clearly used to having his own way and did not like hearing me tell him that what he wanted wasn’t going to happen.

It’s not fun to have to say no to someone who wants to watch their child/grandchild/friend perform. But in a small theatre, shows do sell out quickly, and everyone was reminded of this several times before the show opened. And we tried (as we do anytime a show sells out) to scare up extra tickets–we just couldn’t get enough.

Dad, Grandma, Mom and the little girls disappeared into the crowd. I was busy distributing tickets to other theatre patrons and feeling more than a little upset about the way I had been treated over the whole issue, when one of the staff members realized that the whole bunch of them had probably gone into the theatre, somehow making an end run around the person scanning tickets. The grin Dad flashed our way on his way out of the theatre confirmed our suspicions.

I was angry. I don’t like confrontation, and I’d had my fill of it already. I skipped out on the cast party, because I didn’t feel like I could stand there and schmooze with other kids’ parents with a smile on my face. What disturbs me even more is that those little girls were just taught that if someone says you can’t have what you want, you can just go ahead and take it.

Small Success: Season’s Over

Thursdays at CatholicMom.com begin with a look at the past week’s Small Successes!

We have officially reached the end of the two seasons that sucked the life out of our household routine: sports and theatre. The show closed Sunday, and yesterday was the final soccer practice (an anticlimactic one, since the last game was played Tuesday. But there was a pasta party scheduled, so they practiced. Anything for spaghetti, when you’re a high-school boy.)

Lessons were learned.

  1. Playing a sport at the high-school level and participating in community theatre is going to have an academic impact. Which, of course, we knew, but we didn’t know to what extent.
  2. With a lot of careful advance planning, a home-cooked dinner can be had by all on nearly every evening.
  3. There is no shame in grabbing a drive-thru dinner for your Renaissance Kid when you’re en route to the theatre on a performance night, directly following an away game that’s 45 minutes from home.
I spent almost as much time admiring the fall foliage as I did watching soccer last Thursday! (That’s TheKid in maroon, in the center of the photo).

This week, my success is that we all survived the last week and its 2 soccer games, 4 performances, 1 music rehearsal (that was mine), Mass on Sunday and a set strike after the final show.

Now it’s time to settle in, to vacuum up the dirt left on the floor of my car by the soccer cleats, to make a new menu plan for November that leaves me some wiggle room to cook things that take longer than 25 minutes, to put away the Oxi-Clean and the bucket where I soaked the white home-game uniforms, and to hassle TheKid a little more about studying his algebra.

TheKid is sorry that his seasons are over. Don’t tell him, but I’m not. Sports and theatre are good for kids, but they do have a cost, and that’s measured in more than sports fees and show tickets.

Small Success dark blue outline 800x800

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This month I’m joining all the cool kids in the #Write31Days adventure! I didn’t pick a keyword or a theme, because just getting something written for all 31 days is challenge enough for me right now.

#WorthRevisit: Kindergarten, Harvard and the Arts

As my youngest child graduates from 8th grade tomorrow, I was looking back in the archives for mentions of kindergarten. I thought about sharing some funny stories from TheKid’s kindergarten days–but then I caught sight of this, which brings to mind how grateful I am that TheKid has had more than his share of opportunities to participate in the arts right along with academics. From April 2014:

There’s outrage all over the Internet right now over the cancellation of a kindergarten student performance because it would take away instructional time needed for the kids to become “college- and career-ready.”

I’d like to join my voice to the disagreement with the school administration; I’m all about encouraging students to participate in the arts. But I take issue with what a lot of people are saying:


Well, yes. Yes, they are. That’s why the arts, and recess, and physical education are so important. College is not all about performance on the SAT or ACT. It’s about using your knowledge, skills, abilities and interests to learn even more.

I had a school principal tell me once that kindergarten students are not preparing for college. That was in response to my concern that my daughter and her classmates were not being taught at all for an entire month while the kindergarten teacher was caring for a terminally-ill parent and the school failed to provide substitute teachers. Instead, whatever grownup (or, in some cases, eighth-grade girl) was available for the next half-hour would babysit the kids. They watched movies and played all day for a month.

Because the principal would not take calls from kindergarten parents and the situation was never addressed, we removed our daughter from that school. Suddenly the principal had time for a meeting with me, in the form of an exit interview. She defended her decision not to provide the class with a substitute teacher by telling me, “It’s kindergarten. It’s not like we’re getting them ready for Harvard.”

Not surprisingly, that school only lasted two more years before closing due to lack of enrollment. Here’s what the school looked like the last time I saw it.


Schools do need to find a good balance between instructional time, play time, physical activity and the arts–on every level of education. Emphasizing one of these at the expense of the others is disastrous for the students and does no service to society.

Yes; kindergarten students are preparing for college–maybe even Harvard. They do this by learning reading-readiness skills, counting and doing simple math, looking at the clouds in the sky, drawing pictures with sidewalk chalk on the playground, practicing music for a show, and perfecting their kickball skills. It’s all important, and good teachers and principals are needed to keep it all going and support that learning. Like the building blocks the kindergartners use to make towers and castles, the skills the children practice as five-year-olds lay the foundation of the work they’ll do later.

worth revisit

I’m linking up with Reconciled to You and Theology is a Verb for #WorthRevisit Wednesday, a place where you can come and bring a past & treasured post to share, and link up with fellow bloggers!


It’s been a long 10 days.

17 shows in 7 days, Living Stations, Confirmation, a birthday, and I don’t even know what else anymore.

I’ve done early-morning Wawa runs for theatre-lunch hoagies.

I’ve baked and cooked for the cast party–and organized the donations. I worked the box office for 15 performances (2 more today).

Hubs has driven to (and bankrolled) at least 3 post-performance “Happy Hours” featuring mozzarella sticks, ice-cream sundaes and root beer–plus one ticket to watch a fellow actor in another show.

Middle Sister has been home from college this week for spring break and we’ve barely had any time to spend with her.

This morning I went around the house and updated all the clocks that don’t automatically update themselves.

At the same time, I woke up TheKid, whose insulin pump needed replacing, and faced The Wrath of Teen.

He had to get up anyway, because we have 10:00 Mass this morning–and we can’t go to a later one and make it to the theatre by 11:30.

But he’s gone from this:

Cogsworth (the clock) is mine. The mustache is fake. The pendulum is not. We have geniuses creating costumes at this theatre. I am not one of them.
Cogsworth (the clock) is mine. The mustache is fake. The pendulum is not. We have geniuses creating costumes at this theatre. I am not one of them.

to this:

By Image taken from About.com, Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=20132344
By Image taken from About.com, Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=20132344

We’re both tired. We’re both in the throes of seasonal allergies. His blood sugar’s still off, thanks to that bad pump site. It’ll take a little while to undo that.

I’m sticking by my response to his uber-grumpy protests about going to 10:00 Mass. Being tired and diabetic is no excuse for rudeness. He was told that he’s going to church and that if there’s much more rudeness, he’ll be dropped off at home afterward instead of taken to the theatre to hang out with his friends and help where necessary (it’s not a performance day for him). I’ll leave him here, with no internet access until I return from the box office for his show.

I guess age 14 is kind of young to expect a little gratitude for the sacrifices we have made as a family for his participation in this show.

And now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go cancel out my healthy breakfast of oatmeal with almonds and dried cranberries with a handful (or three) of M&Ms.

For medicinal purposes.

Small Success: Showtime!

Small Success dark blue outline 800x800Thursdays at CatholicMom.com begin with a look at the past week’s Small Successes!

I’ve spent two days this week at the community theatre as a stagehand for TheKid’s show. If you’ve never been a stagehand, let me tell you that it’s a tougher job than you might think. There’s squeezing into small spaces, moving quickly and precisely during short blackouts, and doing a large part of your job in the dark while dodging cast members in (sometimes large) costumes who are trying to get to their places for the next scene.

Today they designated me Substitute Stage Manger for some crazy reason, and I had a young apprentice who wanted to help, so I decided that he’d be the Props-meister, and he did a great job taking care of some small but very important details during each show.

There were no Confetti Malfunctions.

I love this set! It opens up for the Beast's castle. And check out the tiny little mouse hole!
I love this set! It opens up for the Beast’s castle. And check out the tiny little mouse hole!

Last weekend I ran the box office (as I will do again this weekend) and so far the register has balanced each time.

AND I’ve coordinated the food donations for Saturday afternoon’s cast party. I’m bringing a slow cooker full of vodka pasta and a batch of Oreo-stuffed chocolate chip cookies, because the kids love those and it’s become a tradition.

We celebrated TheKid’s birthday (Sunday) and his Confirmation (Monday).

I’m almost caught up on the laundry. We’re not talking about the state of the rest of the house, but costume pieces needed to be washed yesterday, and I’m going to need that “Beauty and the Beast Jr.” T-shirt clean for weekend box-office wear.

I’m about ready to stop juggling now, but it’s (mostly) been a great time, except for that little bit on Tuesday morning when I had a Near Occasion of Intimidation resulting from contact with someone who has that kind of personality that intimidates me.

Oh yeah, and that part today when I turned around too quickly after moving the set and ran SMACK into a piece that sticks out. That’ll leave a mark…

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Small Success: Stagehand Edition

Small-Success-Thursday-400pxThursdays at CatholicMom.com begin with a look at the past week’s Small Successes!

It’s so far, so good in the world of this stagehand. I haven’t broken CatholicMom.com yet, for one.

wizard of oz logo bcfBut I really am a stagehand this week. The Kid is in a show: the Young Performers’ Edition of The Wizard of Oz.

During the week, they perform for primary- and nursery-school field trips. But they’re short on stagehands, so I fill in (as a short stagehand.)

It’s fun to be backstage (and not in the green room where I saw way too many 10-year-old girls taking duck face selfies with their iPhones and posting them on Instagram. In front of their parents, no less. But that’s another story.)


Only one piece of scenery fell down. It was lightweight anyway and it didn’t hit anyone. (And it wasn’t my scenery.)


My only injury was a splinter, and I didn’t even need a needle to remove it. I could have used a nice bath in some Ben-Gay after Tuesday’s shows, though.


I didn’t have to be the one to handle the (real) dog. They had a designated person to walk the dog between scenes.

I’ll be back there for more shows today–and I’ll get my T-shirt today too!

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© 2015 Barb Szyszkiewicz
Wizard of Oz logo via Burlington County Footlighters.