This week, our daughter celebrated her 12th birthday. Now, we have always done birthdays big in our house. There has rarely been a year when the kids didn’t have a huge party to celebrate their day. They get to choose the meals or where we go to dinner on their birthday. Some years, they have forgone the party to be able to choose a crazy big gift from Mommy & Daddy, but there has always been something big to celebrate the birthdays. This year has been decidedly different. At least for our girl.
Our daughter didn’t want any of that this year. She was decidedly close-lipped about any gift that she might be thinking of. She didn’t want any special meals. Cupcakes at school would be seriously embarrassing. She definitely DID. NOT. want a party.
The tween years are really hard. This age is hard for the child because everything is changing and they aren’t sure of anything any more. It’s hard for the parents because our babies are really no longer babies. They definitely have their own minds and ideas and opinions. And for both because you are always afraid of the doing the wrong thing.
We tried to respect our daughter’s wishes as to her birthday this year. We definitely did not have a party. We did make sure she had what she suddenly wanted for breakfast and we did go out to dinner, but not anywhere really special. There was no cake or candles. A few relatives sent cards and gifts which were well received and appreciated. BUT, I may have been able to pull off the biggest surprise of all time and gotten away with it. Meaning it drew the biggest smile I’ve seen out of our girl in a long time.
Our girl has been in the performing arts in one way or another since she was tiny (of her own free will, I’m not THAT mom). She sings, she dances, she choreographs. She has been part of the Musical Theatre Club at school for years. She has also been part of the stage crew and costuming team for her school productions when she wanted to see the other side of the stage. We have seen numerous productions over the years, whether it be ballet, opera, or musical theatre. It is something she really enjoys being a part of.
On another note, this year, she has had to take Civics and Economics as her Social Studies requirement. She has really taken a shine to it (to use an outdated phrase). She is constantly quoting her rights to us. She knows so much about our governmental process that I feel like she should be able to vote already. (She’d probably make better choices than some of us.) So while she has been interested in Hamilton as art for a while, the timing has never been better to see it in person. She’s older and understands more and has a personal interest in government.
I mean, this kid does her homework while listening to the Hamilton soundtrack. Last week, I almost had her convinced to start singing “Aaron Burr, Sir” under the bust of Lafayette when we visited the White House. Almost.
“Oui oui, mon ami, je m’appelle Lafayette! The Lancelot of the revolutionary set! I came from afar just to say “Bonsoir!” Tell the King, “Casse toi!” Who’s the best? C’est moi!”
We were not anywhere near New York when Hamilton debuted on Broadway in 2015. And getting tickets then was darn near impossible. We moved to New Zealand in October of 2015 and didn’t move back to the US until October of 2017. Getting tickets now is still darn near impossible.
You can not imagine how excited I was when I found out that Hamilton was coming to the Kennedy Center. I won’t go into the depths that I went to get tickets to this show, but I will say that it literally involved sweat, tears, and almost blood. NOT. KIDDING. But, as I waited in the online queue that had tens of thousands of people in it and stewed with frustration, I thought “I am not throwing away my shot”.
Given what went into getting these tickets and the little bit of it that our daughter actually saw, she was convinced it was impossible. She knows better than to think I’m buying tickets that cost $600 each (which were the only tickets left at one point) or that I would spend even more to buy tickets from some jerk on StubHub who is not a real arts lover, but just wants to make a quick buck (sorry, I’m still a little bitter). She thought I didn’t get tickets. I can’t tell you how many times I almost blew this surprise. There have been lots of hushed tones and secret conversations in the last month and half.
So, on Tuesday, I handed her a wrapped gift that she knew right away was a book. It wasn’t just any book though. It was this book.
Now, she was excited to get the book. She has already read it at school because the library has a copy. I could tell that she was glad to have her own copy. Thinking back to my 12 year old self, I can almost hear the inner monologue of “hey, this is cool and all, but seeing it would have been better.”
And then she opened the book. Tucked inside the front cover were 2 tickets to see Hamilton at the Kennedy Center opening weekend. The look on her face was priceless. The kind of priceless that this momma lives for. Even though it’s just the two of us who are able to go and it isn’t opening night or in New York, but our girl is going to Hamilton.
Not that I think he will ever read this, but I would just like to take a minute to thank Lin- Manuel Miranda for creating something so special. Hamilton is not only engaging as a performance, but has sparked in young people an interest in our country’s history, governmental process, and a sense civic duty in a way that I am not sure has been seen before. And that is indeed something special. And “the plan (at least in our house) is to fan this spark into a flame.”