About ten years ago, my high school students had an esteemed guest visit our theater class – Barbara Deutsch. Not only is she a dynamic, highly successful career and acting coach, the creator of the Barbara Deutsch Approach, but she is also my bestie’s mother-in-law. She told a very simple story which really resonated with my students. I will attempt to paraphrase the story, but for those of you out there really looking for some insight, you should go directly to the source. Nonetheless, this is story I recall :
Every individual has a particular something. We need to figure out what it is that we can bring into an audition or situation that other people do not have. There was one client who was nothing but nice. He didn’t find it to be the most helpful quality, he was just nice. During a rather lengthy audition, he allowed another man to go before him and was very cordial to the stage manager. She in turn told the directors about how nice this man was and he went on to book the gig.
A simple story about a nice man. I spent the next few weeks helping the students to really hone in on their special something. It was nice exercise. It felt productive.
About four years ago, I was standing in the bathroom with my aunt. We were at a diner having a large meal after burying my grandfather. My aunt is a striking woman. I have always admired her resolve and it was recently being tested after my uncle suffered a tragic accident and was left quadriplegic. This story in itself should be a book, one that I have often hoped she would write, so I will leave the details for her to share – and when we were standing, drying our hands in front of that obnoxiously loud hand dryer, she said, we were made for these parts. I have always been tough. And you have always been sweet. These are the perfect roles we need to take care of the people in our lives. Remember being nice counts for everything. It is the platform from which everything must start.
And then I really thought it about it. My something. Sweet.
I had never really considered this to be an attribute before. I was always preoccupied with my stuffed animals to make sure they got equal amounts of attention. I was very concerned to make sure everyone in the class received a valentine in their homemade mailbox. I shared my homework because I didn’t want to upset the person asking, who clearly had more exciting things to do than Algebra. But I didn’t think this personality trait would really hold any power. Assertive. Decisive. Charismatic. These were words I aspired to. Not sugary, saccharine, syrupy, sweet.
But I learned the Barbara Deutsch Approach and I admired my aunt, so I embraced my something.
I am sweet.
I carefully watch my daughter with patient eyes as she stares at something on the bookshelf she wants to take down.
I good-naturedly stand in front of an open cabinet for fifteen minutes looking for the perfect lollypop.
I agreeably hold her up in her closet so she can touch all of her pink clothes inevitably denying each of them every morning with “It’s too much” and always wanting to wear her blue dress. Good thing it’s reversible.
I delightfully create dance moves to help her transition back into the car after a long session of Physical Therapy.
I wonderfully read to her the teacher report of the day, while the water is boiling, the babies are crying, and I desperately have to go to the bathroom.
I calmly sit with her on the floor of Ikea when she is having a sensory overload. Scoop her up in Trader Joe’s when she is too overwhelmed to get back in the cart. Coax her into a seat at a hockey game. Encourage her to hold a pencil at OT. Console her when she becomes obsessive about Paw Patrol in Target.
I am sweet when I would rather be exhausted. I am sweet when I prefer to be angry. I am sweet when I feel overwhelmed.
And all the while I take deep breaths and remember – this is my super power. This is what I can give to my daughter. I am gentle by nature. I am empathetic. I can be a great mother.
And the other day when we walked into dance class and she saw the security guard and shouted Hello with a gigantic smile, I realized- she’s sweet too. What a beautiful gene to pass along.