On living up to expectations

It was for Sierra, this show – this Nickelodeon Storytime Live, this theatre performance of preschool-oriented cartoons, this “so-close-to-Disney-on-Ice-I-was-nearly-scared” experience.

It was her birthday present, after all. It was something she’d love – characters she talked about, DVDs she watched, songs she sang. And it was a chance to turn an early leave from work into a full-out Daddy/Daughter Date Night.

Which means it wasn’t really JUST for Sierra. It was for me, too.

Still, that doesn’t exactly qualify the excitement or anxiety I had. I spent the hours before the show wondering if she’d like it, the weight of expectation mixing in my gut, butterflies – seriously, you guys, BUTTERFLIES – as to whether my three-year-old daughter would totally love what was essentially a two hour long Nick Jr. commercial.

Sierra’s eyes sparkled through the first hour, soaking in the experience. And – boom – I finally got it. I realized that, indeed, this was an experience, one she would never again get: the feeling of encountering something new for the first time, in this case the grand stage and the power of live performance.

To us adults, this was just some actress dressed up like Dora. But to Sierra, this was something more. This was her first concert. Her first time to the theatre, watching a play; a glimpse at real acting. This was, discounting a random hug from Clifford the Big Red Dog a few years back, her first encounter with celebrity; her first brush with fame.

I went in feeling nervous. Not because I hoped she’d have fun, I discovered, but because I subconsciously hoped her first experience was similar to how I imagined my first: steeped in raw energy, the potential of the performance straining against what – up to that point – had been a one-dimensional fandom.

I guess it passed the test. She sang. She jumped up and down and clapped. She told me her favorite parts (Princess Dora) and even rooted for the bad guys. Most of all, she gave rapt attention, not missing a single word, loving every minute of the performance all the way up until Dora walked off into the sunset, at which point – in typical toddler fashion – she shifted gears.

“Can we go to Pizza Ranch now?”

You bet, little girl. Let’s wait until these goosebumps go down, first.

This was lovingly handwritten on September 16th, 2010