Music Recital

Watching Mikias at a music recital earlier this summer, I nearly burst with pride.  The recital was held at an art museum in a nearby city. It was delightful to watch the students, young and not so young, play their guitars, fiddles, and keyboards. I guess I should mention that Mikias wasn't playing in the recital, he was a member of the audience.  One of his best friends invited him to see him play his guitar publicly for the first time.  His friend was amazing, he even composed a song that he played.  Mikias was proud and supportive, he even gave his friend one of his silly bands for good luck before his performance.  

I only had to look back four and a half years and remember the early days of being Mikias's mom to realize how far he has come and why I have every reason in the world to be proud of my son, the audience member.

He was 4 and 1/2 and had been home from Ethiopia for a few days when I took him to the supermarket.    We used the shopping cart that had a 'fire truck' attached to the front of it and Mikias was delighted.  He steered the truck, beeped the horn and smiled at everyone he saw.  I was so proud of my beautiful new son, and pleased with how well our first outing was going.  Then he saw the abundance of produce, escaped the fire truck and began frantically and delightedly grabbing and biting into everything he could get his hands on quickly, which was a lot. I wrestled him (literally) back into the cart, while he screamed at me in Amharic.  The people who moments earlier were smiling at us were now trying to decided if they should intervene personally or call the department of social services.  I tried to smile at the other shoppers like I had it all under control, but am pretty sure I didn't fool them.  We quickly checked out with our partially eaten fruit and nothing else.  Mikias gamely got back into the fire truck and was laughing as I pushed him through the parking lot.  I motioned for him to hop out of the fire truck and into our car.  He refused.  I reached in to lift him out and he held onto the steering wheel like a drowning person would hold onto a life preserver.  As soon as I could pry one hand off the wheel he locked the other hand onto it. I switched tactics and grabbed his waist and pulled as fast as I could, he continued to hold fast to the wheel so I was pulling both him and our fire truck shopping cart across the parking lot.  I think at this point he sensed that I was going to cry, so he let go and got into the car with me, smiling and undisturbed by the commotion he was creating.  It was January and no more than 20 degrees outside, but I was sweating like I had spent an hour on the elliptical machine at the YMCA.

A few weeks later I tried a trip to CVS.  I had a plan, hold his hand, grab what I needed, and check out.  I would avoid anything would would look appealing to him, like candy and toys.  This went well for no more than 45 seconds, when he broke away from my grip and found the toy aisle as though he was being pulled there by a powerful magnet.  By the time I caught up to him, he had pulled a half dozen toy cars off the shelf and was playing happily with them, while making loud and accurate sounding car noises.  I told him (with a combination of speech and sign language) that he could pick one.  He clearly understood, shook his head and threw his body over all six cars.  I stayed firm (like any good mom) and told him 'one'.  He started to cry.  I stayed firm.  He began to kick his legs and flail his arms.  I stayed firm.  He added screaming.  I knew I shouldn't give in, besides I checked the price and hadn't brought in enough money.  I tried to lift him up to carry him out and he screamed louder and held the cars in a death grip.  At this point a couple of shoppers and an employee wandered over to see what was going on. I could see them glance around for his mother.  I looked around too, my whiteness keeping me anonymous.  Then he called me Mumma as he continued his ferocious tantrum.  I took a deep breath, pried him off  the floor and forced the cars that he clung to out of his arms.  I carried him out, while he screamed "NO MUMMA!!  MACHINAS (Amharic for cars) FOR MIKIAS", like a sack of potatoes over my shoulder.  I buckled him into his car seat, and waited a few minutes incase the police were going to come to question me, then drove home.

We continued going to stores and restaurants with mixed results.  Little by little, things improved and life began to feel slightly less insane but it did not come easily or quickly. Although Mikias is predictably well behaved when we go out, I don't take it for granted.

So this particular Sunday afternoon in June, I beamed with pride while my son sat and enjoyed a music recital in an art museum.  He could have played Mozart on the keyboard while accompanying himself on the harmonica and I wouldn't have been any prouder.