Merrick once offered Scarlett's bedroom to his best friend, Lachlan: "Scarlett lives in a play, Lachlan. You can sleep here."
Although his whole life is about keeping up with the big kids (who have 4 and 6 years on him), his battleground is minutiae: who has the best banana, latest bedtime, last marshmallow. Big Gun sibling wars--self-identity, parental preference--haven't yet erupted.
Plus, he's my baby! Hey, you big kids: give Merrick the best banana, the latest bedtime (wink, wink), the last marshmallow! This guy gets coddled. Position, secure.
Stryker plays on an entirely different field and knows it: "I am openly jealous of Scarlett. I actually feel like I hate her sometimes."
Here are the Cliff notes: Scarlett gets all the attention. Never gets into trouble. Gets to skip chores because of rehearsals. Misses weeks of school. Makes a lot more money than dog-walking or babysitting. Might be famous. Has found Life Passion. Gets all the attention. All the attention. Attention.
When his eyes opened on Friday (opening night), he started producing a steady stream of this: "I hate plays. Plays are stupid. Can I bring a book. I'm not going. You can't make me. Scarlett is stupid. You guys are torturing me. You must hate me."
Still, his complaints were backdrop. Tenor, muted. Behavior at the actual Tortuous Event Itself, excellent.
The performance was perhaps the best children's theater I've ever seen. I was floored (even with Bias firmly in hand). My daughter cried on stage. Real tears. She was casually cruel as the overseer's daughter, whose quite conscious silence means that her best friend--a slave--is brutally whipped. The entire cast radiated. It was raw, powerful, transporting.
At the cast party, because I remain genuinely surprised over--and slightly skeptical of--Scarlett's theatrical inclinations, I had to ask the director and stage manager: How's she doing?
This stage mother felt foolish, like she went digging for compliments. The director, stage manager, and choreographer offered commentary on Amazing Natural Talent and Big Career Coming that would be untoward to reproduce here. Detailed and enthusiastic observation, with names dropped and new Opportunity, mentioned.
As the van door closes for our ride home, Stryker instantaneously becomes the most evil, wretched, rude and cruel child on the planet. He is a Demon.
"I hate this family. That play sucked. You suck, Scarlett."
Every comment, threat, and attempt to calm was met with one of these dark bullets: I wish I had different parents, can't wait to move out, hope Scarlett falls and breaks an actual leg, want some fairness in this house, wish Merrick would get punished for what he does, think my mother and father suck, will never do chores again and SO ON.
He was so vile that once home, I ordered him to his bedroom --till noon the following day!
Of course, it was already well past bedtime, so it wasn't long before I had to face Demon again to say good-night. He was in bed, on the same soundtrack.
But he offered this special stanza: "My life is torture--and I heard every single word that guy said about Scarlett. Why does everybody think she's so great, so special?"
The word 'special' popped out in a blaze of glitter and phlegm, so dark, so solid and bitter that it bounced off the walls and hit me.
Aha! Origin of the Demon, noted.
Before I could tell Demon how absolutely great, how special he was, he barricaded himself in an ice cold voice: "Mom, I have something to tell you."
Ominous tone? Understatement.
Me: "Remember, words can cause real damage. I'd think very carefully first."
Demon (calmly, with a sense of reflection and peace): "Oh, I've thought about this for a long, long time and I'm ready, no doubt about it. Mom, I never thought it would come to this. I don't love you anymore. I genuinely don't. Sorry."
Dagger! Excellent aim, exacting delivery! Target down!
I walked away without a word. Took a few deep breaths. Got a little teary. Spent a few minutes debriefing with the spousal unit.
Then, I went back upstairs, popped open the door to his dark room and said into that sweet, lonely silence: "Good-night, babe. I'm sorry you had such a rough time and I love you so, so much."
Stage mother. Sometimes the real story is the one nobody sees.