Many years ago I co-directed a youth theater production of Shakespeare's "The Tempest.” On our last day of performances, we had a matinee and an evening performance. The matinee performance started under lots of stress. We were missing our stage hand, our sound person and two actresses, and everyone was stressed. The only thing we had time to do was say a prayer. We usually took time getting into character and doing energy-building exercises before a performance, but we didn’t have time that day. The play had to go on.
The youth said all of their lines and got to the places they needed to be, but something about the play just wasn’t right. After a few scenes I realized they had no energy. They were just putting on a play instead of focusing on inspiring the audience with their message.
At intermission I pulled the cast together and talked about their energy. They all knew something was wrong but didn't understand what it was. In the short intermission, I only had time to tell them to do one thing. I said, "Turn and hug the person next to you, then hug another person and another until you feel you have enough energy to be your character."
They all hugged. As the curtain opened and the lines began, I felt something distinctly different. They had found a connection that gave them energy. They were focused on helping and supporting each other no matter what. It was beautiful.
For the evening performance, we arrived to the performance hall with plenty of time to dress, do makeup, connect, get into character and do energy exercises. When the curtain went up, the energy flew out from the stage and hit the audience. They began to laugh and enjoy the experience. The children were on fire, and they knew it. A person who is confident about their character is motivating and contagious. It was a beautiful end for these youth who had worked so hard.
This is a parable for many things in life, especially parenthood. We all play multiple characters, and being a parent is only one of those roles. If you feel like you don’t have energy in your parenting or in the relationships with your children, a hug is a great way to find the energy you need to inspire, connect and teach. If you feel like one of your children is draining all of your energy and you can't inspire her to change her behaviors, then you should probably start with a good, long hug.
The second lesson for this parable is a quote from James Allen: "As a man thinketh, so he is.” Just as my young actors couldn't inspire anyone on stage without getting into character, parents can't inspire change in their children without taking time to look at themselves. We should analyze our own characters and conscientiously choose the characteristics we want to have as a parent. Then we need to live them. It’s only then that we’ll inspire ourselves and our children.
Parenting is always easier if you have energy and feel inspired. Nothing can break into that energy if you maintain conscious control over it. We get to choose how we parent and respond to the craziness around us. “As we thinketh, so we are."