"I knew they'd be cute, but they were good!" That's the English translation of what a Spanish-speaking mother said to me after the choir performance our kids were in. She had come to see her twin third-graders sing and was pleasantly surprised by the fact that not only were they enthusiastic and adorable; they actually sounded good too!
The choir performance illuminated a number of aspects of our kids' (and their families') lives that I wasn't totally aware of. First of all, many of the families just don't have the ability to be as involved with their children as they'd like - in some cases because they're taking care of other people's children. The mother quoted above is a nanny for two boys, making it so that she doesn't see her own boys nearly as much as she'd like. She is as involved as she can be and is constantly in communication with me about how they're doing but she can't go to their school or be with them after school because she has to take care of someone else's children. She had tears in her eyes seeing her boys perform because she had no idea how hard they'd been practicing.
Many of the parents were grateful that their kids had the chance to get some music enrichment and learn to love singing. They patiently waited through other groups singing to hear their kids and told them how excited they were and how proud they were. However, some did not make it, for a variety of reasons.
Whether the parents wanted to come but couldn't, or didn't want to come, it didn't seem to matter to the kids. The letdown they felt was obvious when they found out that their family wasn't there. One girl's mom got sick right before and let me know she couldn't come. The girl said she understood but looked dejected the rest of the night. Another parent - whose child had a solo - dropped them off instead of asking for a ride from us, went all the way home and told them he'd come back. He didn't so we drove the kids home.
A brother and sister pair got a ride with me. Their parents don't speak any English and are pretty shy about coming to anything but I was hoping that they'd make it here. They didn't, and as I dropped the kids off at home, the older brother said, "They're all at home and all their cars are here and they didn't want to come." By "all," he meant mom, dad, aunt, uncle, grandma, and grandpa.
While I'd prefer that the parents were there, of course, my executive director and I, along with one of our staff members, got to be there and it was really special for us. This is where the family structure of our program comes in. I'd rather their parents be there, but when they aren't or can't, we can be the surrogate parents. Driving the kids home and talking about their accomplishments and how amazing they sounded was a very special time for me. In addition, the kids from my car kept telling me how much they liked riding in my car and wondering if they could ride in it again. Trust me, my car is nothing special. They wanted more time with someone who shows they care.