One reader commented that my titles aren’t catchy enough, so there.
Fact is, I have spent my whole life trying to get attention and failing miserably almost every time. Let me tell you about my first successful attempt, or shall we say non-attempt.
My only musical training ever was one semester of kiddie choir in third grade. That’s it. No piano lessons, no guitar, no band, not even a used recorder with a booklet. I had my doubts about it at first, but kiddie choir wasn’t half bad. The teacher was an excellent classroom manager, funny and energetic as all the best are. The songs we sang weren’t bad either, especially since we focused on their meaning and history as well as their rhyme and meter. Best of all, I got to wear my Cinderella watch on choir days, which made me feel more grown-up than ever before. Yeah, I loved kiddie choir.
At the end of each weekly class, the teacher would give one kid a quiet seat prize, which was usually a candy bar. Everyone was always so good in her class that the decision must have been arbitrary, my mother said. I believed her until I accidentally proved her wrong. In the middle of each class, the teacher would ask if anyone had a piano piece they wanted to play. Somebody always did, and I was jealous of their ability and the attention that it brought them. One time, my hand just shot up of its own accord as teacher posed the piano question. I was too embarrassed to say anything when she called me out, so I shook my head in shame, thinking, “I certainly won’t be getting the quiet seat prize today.” But I did. It was a bag of Wildberry Skittles – I still remember that, the first and best Skittles I ever ate.
It took a while to wrap my young mind around what happened that Monday afternoon. My first explanation was that teacher felt sorry for me because I couldn’t play the piano, something every third grader should be able to do, right? Now that I’m grown though, I’m able to understand the true depth of my former teacher’s perception. She didn’t give me those Skittles because I couldn’t play the piano, she gave them to me because she saw me asking for attention, albeit in a non-verbal, Freudian slip kinda way. That’s huge, and I wish I would have arrived at this conclusion a long while ago.
Growing up, my avenues for attention-getting were limited at best. I wasn’t a cute, funny, or creative kid. My sense of humor was garbled and off-putting. I couldn’t draw. My tall frame was covered in hand-me-downs and topped off with a greasy ponytail. I had the misfortune to grow up in a family where doing your schoolwork willingly, avoiding fights with siblings, and behaving well in church were the three surest ways NOT to get attention. Bad behavior always worked, but never in the way I wanted it to. This whole Skittles incident was groundbreaking, and I’ve been trying to re-create it for years. Staff Appreciation Lunch at work came pretty close, though it took a lot more effort.
What am I trying to say? I’m saying that if you have kids, teach them how to play the piano, or sing, or dance, or do something for an audience. And when they complain about having to practice, tell them to think of all those poor attention-starved kids in northern Hellannoy who go to bed each night not knowing where their next bag of Wildberry Skittles is coming from – not knowing how to get people to look at them twice.