RM and I are sitting in the school’s media room and we’ve just watched and clapped Archie and Lewis’s performance at their mini piano concert and right at this very minute Tyson’s playing ‘Hot Cross Buns’ on the piano in front of teachers, parents and sixty of his school ground peers and if you smacked a horse on the nose with a table-tennis bat and freeze-framed it’s immediate reaction, even before the spilt-second it needs to feel its rage, you’d get a pretty good idea of how I look right now – chin dipped, eyes squinting half-shut, lips pressed together in a kind of grimace-grin.
I’m trying to swallow the lump and prevent the emotional twitching of my facial muscles and I’m doing my best to avoid the slightest film of tears and it’s a tough gig, but I think I’ve made it, because he’s finished his very first public performance to rousing applause and now if I can just distract myself and clap loudly and sniff a little and pretend to study the cracks in the cornices of the music room’s roof until my eyes are completely dry, I’ll be the proud stoic Dad that no one really notices, instead of the emotional basket-case Dad that everyone tilts their head and smiles at saying , awwww, like he’s a cute whimpering puppy with only three legs.
Oh my God… God! Tyson’s piano teacher, Angela, who’s clearly surprised and thrilled – because no one really expected him to get up when his name was called – is motioning him to sit down at the piano again and now I’m as excited for him as I’m terrified of my own emotional meltdown because he’s about to tackle another milestone by responding to his very first encore.
I knew it would be ‘Mary Had A Little Lamb’ even before he fingered the first key because he’s been playing it at home for the past few weeks, and he’s playing it so well despite being under this hyper-focussed peer pressure, and stupidly I glance over at his Prep Teacher, Mrs N, to see that she’s shaking her head in amazement at his stellar performance and this is just so hopeless; I’m hopeless, because I’m barely hanging on here.
All the other parents in the room appear to be happy but emotionally stable and though I may seem to be similar on the outside, on the inside I feel like I’m one of a litter of fluffy white kittens who’s mother is dying and we’re all watching the saddest movie ever together: Beaches, and one of my feline siblings – my brother the runt – is by himself in the corner, as usual, listening to I’m All Out Of Love by Airplay.
What’s wrong with me? If Tyson plays another song, if he even attempts ‘Twinkle Twinkle Little Star’ or, even worse, Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go by Wham, I’m just going to lose it and be about as miss-able as a billboard for Water World advertising free entry and unlimited rides to everyone in this room.
It was only eighteen months ago that Tyson couldn’t sit still long enough to pick up a crayon and reacted to the world like a flaming marble in a pin ball machine and we were almost certain at the start of the year that he’d struggle to even last a week at school and now look at him! Look at him! The souring thrill in his tiny little face! The self-validation in his big blue eyes!
He’s finished Mary Had A Little Lamb and his rhythm and timing was exemplary and here comes the rousing applause again and for some reason I’m remembering the final scene of the movie Never Ending Story because I feel like he’s really made it here, he’s come through a tough spot and this is him with his hand raised in triumph as he flies through the air on the back of a laughing luckdragon.
Just as I feel I’m about to lose control, to totally lose it, Tyson – as if psychically aware of what I need – gets up and gets his feet tangled in the musical cords all over the ground and nearly falls over and it instigates just the right amount of fright-chuckle to prevent the banks of my emotional reservoir from spilling over and I’m able to pull the lead on this three-legged puppy to keep him out of everyone’s site.
When the concert’s finished Tyson walks through the crowd to find us and he’s laughing outrageously as soon as he sees us because he knows he’s got the first of many celebratory hugs and kisses coming to him and after he’s followed the line back to class, we’re chatting to several of the Mums and waiting for the final bell and one of them says, ‘Your three boys could be the next Hanson!’ and so I feel compelled to remind them of another very important member of the band – three year old Maki – and say, seriously, that I’d prefer she called them the Jackson Four.