Nothing makes my stomach churn more than yet another parent gushing about their progeny’s achievements. Indeed, this chunderous gushing of superlatives has almost had me hospitalised in the past. Just call me Mr Creosote from Monty Python’s Meaning of Life. A bucket simply isn’t big enough! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aczPDGC3f8U
However, just because someone is young and just happens to be my daughter, does that mean I should repress my pride and hide her under a proverbial bushel? Especially, when my pride has nothing to do with her singing ability but is more about her incredible tenacity and persistence in the face of formidable adversity?
Of course not!
After spending a few months under the medical microscope, Miss performed at School Spectacular last weekend, singing 30 songs as part of the 1,500 voice Combined Choir. It’s a privilege for anyone to appear at School Spec but after being diagnosed with severe vocal nodules on top of a rare digestive disorder, Miss was definitely overcoming the odds. Indeed, after undergoing months of voice therapy, it’s been a rather rugged road to School Spectacular!
Around April this year, Miss was diagnosed with having severe vocal nodules, which are basically blisters on your vocal chords. Her voice was very squeaky and she was missing letters in words and it difficult for her to talk, let alone sing. These nodules were caused by vocal abuse (ie screaming at her brother and less often mother) and stomach acid. The treatment involved intensive speech therapy and regular exercises and it probably won’t surprise you that routine isn’t our thing. We wanted that magic pill…the instant fix but without any alternative, we had to rise to the challenge.
At the same time we found out about the vocal nodules, Miss was also diagnosed with Delayed Gastric Emptying, a rare disease where her digestion is very slow and she doesn’t feel hungry. Consequently, she doesn’t eat. She also gets stomach aches, reflux and all sorts of symptoms from not eating. She has been seriously underweight and had real trouble staying alert. She was looking pretty sick for awhile there before we found some food replacement drinks, which had made quite a difference to her weight and equilibrium. She’s also been prescribed an appetite stimulant. You can just imagine what her moods have been like when she’s not eating at all! It’s been a serious concern.
While these problems weren’t imminently life-threatening, she went through a battery of tests and even a hospital admission in a very short period of time. While she didn’t say it felt like the end of the world, you could see those thoughts written across her sullen face. What with having a chronically ill mother and knowing what I go through, she was no stranger to what living with a chronic illness entails. She knew that when it came to life’s game of Snakes and Ladders, she’d definitely landed on the snake and wasn’t happy!
Fortunately, sometimes those ladders can equally be just around the next corner…
Of course, when I heard how bad her voice was, I was absolutely devastated. It was the vocal equivalent of being told your child is on the verge of spending their life in a wheelchair. Although it wasn’t going to kill her, for a kid who loves singing, drama and is thinking of becoming a teacher, this was serious stuff.
Of course, I knew it could be a lot worse but pointing that out when she was devastated, doesn’t help. She needed hugs, time and if she just stuck with her exercises, everything would be absolutely fine! Denial can be a wonderful thing!
Knowing how hard it is for anyone to stick with such exercises, her speech therapist dangled the School Spectacular carrot in front of my wide-eyed daughter. She even spoke to the teachers at school to develop an integrated, team approach. This was really inspired thinking because our Little Miss is extremely strong willed and that will doesn’t always comply with requirements.
Her voice was so bad that she was told that she needed to rest her voice. She wasn’t allowed to sing for at least 3 months and had to mouth the words at choir. Of course, this was like shutting a wild bird in a cage but she complied. I love singing myself so I know what that meant.
That was until it came to auditioning for the role of Marta, the second-youngest Von Trapp child in the Sydney production of The Sound of Music. Miss does musical theatre and she came home from class with a web address to apply for auditions.
As far as I was concerned, getting the role was the equivalent to flying to the moon. Of course, you superficially encourage their dreams but you don’t even need to look deep in your heart to know that this is a dream and not part of the real world. It’s your job as parent to encourage such dreams while gently bringing your child back down to earth safely without smashing into a thousand pieces. After all, we all know what happened to Humpty Dumpty!
Knowing how much the vocal nodules were affecting her voice, I knew she didn’t stand a chance and subtly tried to encourage her to audition for something next year. Next year when, of course, everything would be better and “just fine”.
Of course, she wouldn’t hear of it and burst into tears: “But Mummy! I’m the right height now and I’ll never be the right height ever again!”
As a parent, you come to appreciate when you’re beat. I filled out the application and attached a photo and pressed send. Meanwhile I developed a nasty bronchitis and was on standby to go to hospital when the email arrived. She had an audition.
She didn’t receive a callback but she was stoked about the audition and a seed was definitely planted.
Swings and roundabouts, missing out on Sound of Music meant she could still do School Spec. Yes! Miss and her entourage were starting our way up the ladder again.
You can read about School Spectacular here: https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/2015/12/01/introducing-school-spectacular/
Among the 30 songs our daughter sang with the Combined Choir, one had a particular resonance:
“Climb every mountain,
Ford every stream,
Follow every rainbow,
‘Till you find your dream.”
Rodgers and Hammerstein, The Sound of Music.
It almost brought tears to my eyes knowing just how far she’d come and what it meant to her not only to be able to sing in the shower again but to perform in School Spectacular. As she said:
“Last year, being in School Spec was my dream and it came true!”
Of course, achieving such dreams doesn’t happen single-handed and our choir had an impressive support crew headed by the choir teacher, exhausted parents and I’m also going to mention big brother who has been supporting his sister’s creative dreams without getting jealous and has simply encouraged her. Thanks to her friend’s family, Miss also enjoyed fabulous accommodation across the road and was spared a lot of travel. Geoff and I were also incredibly thankful for that. It was great to give the “taxi” a break.
I hope our daughter’s story might encourage you to overcome your hurdles and reach for the stars. That the seemingly impossible can become a reality and even exceed your expectations.
So, even though I’m risking joining the chunderous brgging parents collective, in so many ways our daughter’s journey to School Spectacular has made her a hero:
There’s a hero
If you look inside your heart
You don’t have to be afraid
Of what you are
There’s an answer
If you reach into your soul
And the sorrow that you know
Will melt away…
And then a hero comes along
With the strength to carry on
And you cast your fears aside
And you know you can survive
So when you feel like hope is gone
Look inside you and be strong
And you’ll finally see the truth
That a hero lies in you
That a hero lies in you
That a hero lies in you
If you have written any encouraging posts about overcoming similar difficulties, please leave a link in the comments below.