Saturday, October 3, 2009

Stage Moms: The Dark Side of the Force

Written by Chris Loprete, Daddy's Den Blogger

Every parent secretly knows that their kid is the most talented in the whole world. Most of us keep that fact to ourselves. Every now and then however you see a parent that wants to make sure the whole world knows just how special their kid is. In the entertainment industry, these parents are known as stage moms. That’s not to say that dads aren’t just as bad. But we’re too busy sitting in the bleachers demanding that the Little League coach put our kid in the game because he’s a much better pitcher than the 10 year old bum currently on the mound. No, the job of dragging their reluctant or even unwilling child all around town from photo shoots to auditions usually falls to the Mom. They’re the ones telling their sons to stand up straight and say the lines correctly, chastising their daughters for rubbing their make up off or ripping her Little Miss beauty pageant sash, or yelling at casting agents because the child actress who won the part is clearly inferior to their little talented angel. My wife and I have always tried to avoid the pitfalls of the stage parent when it comes to our children. Don’t get me wrong. We’re very eager for our little bundles of talent to book a couple of national commercials and start earning their college tuition. However we assured ourselves that we would never become those parents. We wouldn’t push anything on our kids and wouldn’t push our kids on anybody. And then…
The family was headed to Disneyland on a beautiful Saturday in September. This was to be a special day. My three year old was going to be a Jedi. Disneyland has a fun live show called The Jedi Academy or something like that. A bunch of actors trained in stage combat dress up like Jedi Knights from Star Wars, bring a bunch of kids up on stage from the audience and teach them a simple sword fight with toy lightsabers. Then two actors dressed as Darth Vader and Darth Maul appear and one by one the little Jedis in training fight them off with the skills they’ve learned. It’s a fun show and the kids go crazy. My son had seen the show many times but was never eager to be a volunteer. His geeky father fixed that with a couple of viewings of Star Wars IV: A New Hope (still the best of the bunch in my nerd opinion). Now he was ready to battle the dark side and restore peace and justice to the galaxy. I must admit that there was a method to my madness in dressing him that morning. You see the Jedi select their trainees from the audience, but they can’t take everybody so you have to make sure your kid stands out. I put my boy in his Lighting McQueen shirt that flashes red and his Mickey ears with the Mickey Fantasia wizard cap on top. They couldn’t miss him.
After getting to the park the whole family quickly headed to Tomorrowland and the Jedi stage. We got there in plenty of time and sat down front row center (a primo spot to be seen). Good Lord, it was like we were camping out for concert tickets. I went to get us some lunch while my wife stayed with our three year old giving him tips for standing out in the crowd. When I returned with a large tray of food, my wife took her burger and headed to the back of the audience with our 5 month old to get him out of the way of what was about to become a circus of flailing arms and flashing swords.
The show started! The Jedi master asked for volunteers from the audience and right on cue all of the kids stood up and began jumping up and down screaming at the top of their little lungs. My boy was giving it everything he had. I was so proud. Oh sure, I egged him on a little but for the most part he was doing just fine on his own. The kid to the right of him was chosen. The kid to the left of him was chosen. The kid two down from him was chosen. Then another. Then another . Uh-oh. I started to see which way the wind was blowing. Soon my little guy was the only one screaming in his section. It’s not like Obi-Wan Disney Cast Member didn’t see him. There must have been a reason why he wasn’t being picked. Maybe he looked too young. I began to feel bad because I knew it was inevitable that he would be watching from the sidelines. And that’s when I heard it…
A high pitched yelling was piercing through the screaming and hollering of the kids and their parents. Probably no one else noticed it, but I would know that voice anywhere. That shrill scream had been directed at me many times over the last 11 years. I did a slow burn towards the back of the audience. There she was. My beautiful, sweet wife was red in the face, holding my 5 month old in one arm while pointing to my 3 year old with the other all the while screaming at the stage. “Right there! Pick him! He’s right there! What’s the matter with you?!!” (that line was my favorite). I couldn’t believe it. She was yelling louder than my kid. Hell, she was yelling louder than any kid. “Come on! Pick him! He’s one of the only kids standing there!” “Calm down!” I yelled back at her, “Are you crazy?” All of a sudden, my wife and I were having a domestic dispute over about 5 rows of people. She looked at me and then turned back to the people dining at the cafĂ© behind the audience and yelled to no one in particular, “Why aren’t they choosing him?! They’re choosing everyone BUT him!” as if they had the answer as to why her precious Jedi was not wielding a light saber on stage at this very moment. Some were nodding in agreement with her (most likely out of fear), some suddenly became very interested in their fries, and some looked on in stunned silence. I turned back to my son who was still soldiering on to be one of the final kids picked. Time was running out. Then I heard that voice again. This time it was closer. I looked to my right and saw my wife halfway up the aisle now pointing to my son and still yelling, “HIM! HIM! RIGHT THERE! COME ON!” She obviously didn’t think the Jedi master heard her way in the back. Believe me…he did. “GET BACK THERE! “ I screamed. We were both putting on a truly pathetic display. Like we were in a production of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolf? Mercifully the head Jedi said, “We’ve got everyone we need. Thank you very much” My son sat down in my lap exhausted and my wife (also exhausted) slinked back to her place behind the audience. My son looked a little sad sat down on my lap and asked, “Daddy, why didn’t they choose me?” “Because you didn’t want it enough,” I snapped. No, of course I didn’t. I said, “Oh they probably didn’t see you this time. We’ll get them next time.” The little (storm) trooper shrugged, picked up a chicken nugget and started munching away happily enjoying the show. I, however, watched stoically with steam coming out of my ears wondering how I was going to punish Joan Crawford back there.
When the show ended, my son gave the other lucky Jedi trainees a standing ovation and we walked back to find my wife and 5 month old. She stood there looking at me with those soulful puppy dog eyes like she knew she was about to be hit with a rolled up newspaper. “How is he?” She asked referring to my 3 year old. “He’s fine,” I said, “I, on the other hand, am mortified” She was very apologetic and assured me that she was also horrified at her behavior. It was like she blacked out. Like the townspeople from the HBO show True Blood . She promised that it would never happen again. Even still she had to put up with my relentless teasing for the rest of the day. At one point she asked, “Do you think they didn’t pick him because of me?” “Probably” I joked. We both laughed and began to update our Facebook statuses. I remembered a big part of why I fell in love with her. She is always the first to admit when she’s done wrong and can laugh at herself about it. She has a tendency to be a Manic Mama…but she recognizes it and even embraces it at times. So I guess there’s a stage mom in all of us no matter how hard we try to avoid it. So if your kid is a Jedi in your eyes that’s good enough. Just try to keep it to yourself.

*Author’s note: A lot of stories are embellished to make the tale more interesting. Just about every writer has done it including me. That is not the case here.


  1. Hilarious, Chris. A few pointers: Dress the Jedi as a Jedi. Pixar is off fighting Zurg in another galxy. Signs help. Oh, and friends who are cast members might be able to make a phone call too.

  2. Cindy your big sisterOctober 4, 2009 at 10:31 AM

    OMG.. that is hilarious.. and I could actually see the whole thing playing out too.. God bless her.. I am actually surprised that you took it so well being the Ultimate Jedi Master Geek yourself.. can you imagine if that had been you at 3 and not getting picked.. you would have been absolutley crushed!!!

  3. I especially liked the note at the end...
    Maybe some Yoda lessons are in order?

  4. Angela Van Horn-NeumannOctober 4, 2009 at 10:34 AM

    Hilarious! I feel like I was there watching it. "Daddy, why didn't they choose me?" "Oh, they probably didn't see you this time." I about peed my pants at that!

  5. OMG. One of the many reasons I do not have children.. I would hav brought my kid onto the stage! thanks for sharing chrsi!

  6. That was a great story! I found my self laughing and crying... and only because i know you guys and can picture the entire scene! What an awesome writer Chris is, and Ally your kids are so lucky to have a mom like you! xox

  7. Oh my gosh, that is the most hilarious thing I've ever read. And a little painful! I can't believe she asked the neighboring diners why they weren't picking him! The note at the end caps it off! : )

  8. Awesome! He should have brought Rusty, the shark!!

  9. Loved it Chris! So glad Chris Tolsdorf told me to read it. Reminded me of Dick (mr. T) and me going to Universal in Disneyworld and I jumped around like mad and got picked for being Lucille Ball in that wonderful skit with the chocolates on the conveyor belt. I had a GREAT hilarious time. Dick walked to the back of the room and tried to find an Alice in Wonderland pill. Too funny.

  10. Delightful, Chris. So glad Chris T told me to read it. Reminds me of the time Mr. T and I went to Disneyworld and Universal. I jumped up and down and became Lucille Ball in that wonderful skit with the conveyor belt chocolates. I had a hilarious time. Dick went to the back of the room and tried to find an Alice in WOnderland pill escape.