Skip to content
Link copied to clipboard

Children will listen | Lisa Scottoline

Back then, I thought everything was wrong about that decision. I actually regretted it in the moment. I remember sitting in the darkness of the musical, criticizing myself.

If you’re a parent like me, you’ve probably made a mistake or two.

But for a moment, let’s consider the things we’ve done right.

They may not be the first things that come to mind. We’re more critical of ourselves than we need to be, especially women.

And then we criticize ourselves for being so self-critical.

But for one moment, let’s dwell in the house of positivity.

In other words, chez Scottoline.

I say this because last night, something cool happened that I think could resonate for you. It was the kind of full-circle moment that you can have as a parent only when you’re older, and both you and your kid have grown up.

Or at least, your kid has.

Because last night, Francesca took me to a Broadway show as a belated gift for my birthday. The gift wasn’t belated, but Broadway was. She had bought the tickets for my birthday, but a global pandemic intervened.

Fast-forward to Broadway’s comeback, and we found ourselves at the opening night of a revival of Stephen Sondheim’s wonderful musical, Company. You couldn’t get a more perfect show to reopen with, since Company is about the need for company. And it was a special night for the cast, who came out beforehand and thanked us for coming, gave out party hats, and made it into a real celebration.

Not only that, but Stephen Sondheim himself was in the audience. So I breathed the same air as Stephen Sondheim.

Behind a mask, of course.

And vaccinated and boosted.

Not a problem, I want us both to live forever.

Anyway here’s the point: I found myself at a Sondheim musical, taken there by my daughter, who’s 35. And what I remembered, sitting there in the darkness before the show started, was that I had taken Francesca to her first musical 30 years ago, when she was only 5.

The musical was Into the Woods, and it was by Stephen Sondheim.

Back then, I thought everything was wrong about that decision. I actually regretted it in the moment. I remember sitting in the darkness of the musical, criticizing myself.

First of all, I couldn’t afford it. I was trying to become a writer, and I was broke. I couldn’t afford the tickets.

I couldn’t even afford the Junior Mints.

Like everything back then, I had to charge it and find a way to pay off my credit card.

Secondly, after the first act of the show, I realized that Into the Woods might not be appropriate for young children. It’s sophisticated, and bad things were happening on stage, and I remember looking worriedly over at Francesca.

She was, however, rapt.

I can still see her upturned face in profile, her eyes wide while Bernadette Peters was singing, which was enough to keep anybody enthralled, even a 5-year-old. But afterward, Francesca said she loved it, and I bought the CD.

I mean, I charged the CD.

And 30 years later, Francesca took me to a Sondheim show.

This struck me last night, in the darkness of the theater, where I got happy-teary in my free party hat.

I’m so glad I took her to that show when she was 5.

I’m so glad I introduced her to what I love.

I didn’t do it with an agenda. I didn’t know if she would like it, too. That wasn’t why we went, at all. We went because I wanted to go, and I lucked out.

Accidentally, I was a great parent.

I’ll take it!

Maybe that’s the thing about parenting.

Sometimes they like what you like, and sometimes they don’t.

It can happen with the arts, baseball, or spinach.

You won’t know which way it goes, right away.

You might know it 30 years later.

But you’re always teaching them something.

Just by living your life.

More accurately, by how you live your life.

Stephen Sondheim had this insight before I did.

Plenty of other people did, too.

But I never really lived it until that moment.

And somehow, I never understand things until I teach them to myself.

Except for algebra, which will always remain a mystery.

But this, I get.

And that’s cause for celebration.

Look for Lisa’s best-selling historical novel, “Eternal,” in stores now. Also look for Francesca’s critically acclaimed debut novel, “Ghosts of Harvard,” now in paperback.