By Lisa Curry
Last year, my son Sean, then six, wanted desperately to participate in his elementary school’s annual talent show.
“But you don’t have a talent,” I said. Then I realized how that sounded and amended, “I mean a talent like singing or dancing. Of course you have talent, but you can’t play baseball in the talent show.”
“I can burp my ABCs,” he said.
That’s the child’s claim to fame –- he can burp on demand, an ability much envied by his older brother and other boys in their age group.
“Uh, I don’t think so,” I said. “How about if we just go watch the talent show, and maybe that will give us some ideas about what you could do next year?”
He grudgingly agreed, and on talent show night, I took him to watch. It turned out that most of the participants had no exceptional talent, either. They sang, danced, or told jokes, and they were cute, but I didn’t spot any future American Idol winners on stage.
A pair of brothers the same age as my sons sang "Old McDonald had a Farm" and made armpit farts for duck and pig noises. That was scarcely better than burping, but nobody seemed to object.
“Okay, you can be in the talent show next year,” I told Sean afterward. “Maybe you and your brother could dress up in black suits and fedoras and do the Blues Brothers. That would be cool.”
Do children ever cooperate with their parents’ plans in such matters?
When talent-show registration rolled around this year, Sean’s nine-year-old brother had no interest in participating. Sean still wanted to, but he didn’t want to sing. He wanted to burp the alphabet.
I said no.
“But you PROMISED I could be in the talent show this year!”
“I never promised you could burp in it,” I said. “Why can’t you just sing?”
He persisted, and in a moment of weakness and exasperation, I threw up my hands and signed the permission form.
As a person who never had any brothers, I once honestly believed that if little boys had role models who acted decent and civilized, they wouldn’t indulge in the cruder behavior typically associated with men. My husband didn’t belch, pass gas, or scratch himself in public; therefore, neither would my sons.
Then I gave birth to Sean, who quickly stripped me of my illusions.
For the first several years of his life, I couldn’t keep clothes on the boy. He was always in front of the TV, butt-naked, scratching at his genitals, belching and farting like a stereotypical little man.
Last summer he wanted his head shaved in a mohawk. I said no repeatedly, but my husband finally gave in.
We attended a company picnic, and one of my coworkers looked at Sean, looked at me, laughed, and said, “If your kid hides his mohawk under a John Deere ballcap, you might be a redneck.”
Yeah, and if your kid hides his mohawk under a John Deere ballcap AND burps his ABCs in the school talent show, I don’t think there’s any “might be” about it.
So the big day has finally arrived. This evening I will attend the elementary school talent show as the proud parent of the burper. I can hardly wait.
Too bad his mohawk’s gone, but I’m sure that John Deere ballcap’s still around here somewhere.