I grew up in a musical-theater-loving family. Not that any of us were in musicals, mind you, but we went to these shows regularly, watched the movie-versions religiously, and sang along to show tunes in the car and at home. For the most part, a great way to grow up. Except for one part, well, one scene, really.
My mom’s had a particular love for the 1968 movie version of Oliver! (yes, Mom, sometimes I DO write about you!). Overall, I shared her love—with the exception of one small thing: Oliver himself. In an otherwise well-cast movie, the kid playing the title role drove me nuts. Never more than in the scene where he sits in the undertaker’s basement, propped up on a pile of hay (if I remember correctly), when he looks out the window longingly and sings, “Where Is Love?” in what I always considered to be the most annoying voice ever.
From the time I was little until not too long ago, I’d do mock renditions of this scene and my mom would click her tongue, roll her eyes, and say, “I don’t know what your problem with that sweet song and that sweet boy is.” And I’d continue on with my mocking.
So imagine my surprise when last night, when I took my kids to see a local production of Oliver!, I choked up during that very scene, with that very song. Maybe it was because this Oliver was more yelling than singing and therefore seemed more desperate. But more likely it was because as I sat watching the scene this time—with one kid on my lap and the other next to me (with yet another at home)—my “momness” kicked it.
This momness is the thing that makes me realize how much being a mom and raising my awesome kids has changed me—in this case, how much softer I’ve become, how much more open my eyes are. Because now, I understand why my mom loves that scene so much. Who cares how annoying that boy is! The boy is singing about looking for love, specifically, the love of his mother, something he’s never known.
So while before kids I could somehow mock the (actor) orphan’s voice, now that I’m a mom, I can’t. Because no matter how gauling the voice, it’s a song that still too many kids are singing and it’s not funny.
While many days as a mom my kids drive me nuts and I feel totally frustrated by my role as mom, Oliver’s pained song is a good reminder of the importance of what we do, what we offer our kids.