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Surprised by Moms} ?> My wife made our youngest son a Companion Cube cake for this seventeenth birthday. Instead of singing the usual “Happy Birthday,” she delivered it to the table with a pitch-perfect rendition of “Still Alive.” Nearly a decade later, that moment still stands out in his memory. He was surprised by—and delighted with—his mom’s unexpected geek cred.
Moms can surprise us if we let them.
In Sing!, a movie about talking animals and a singing competition, Rosita doesn’t necessarily want to surprise her family, but she wishes she had a little more of their support. When we first meet her, she’s working in the kitchen trying to get her brood of piglets ready for school. Katy Perry’s “Firework” is playing on the radio and Rosita sings along. She even manages a couple of dance steps between the sink and the table. The mood is broken when one her piglets jumps up on the table and entertains his siblings by making fun of her singing. She appeals to her husband, asking him to tell their brood what a good singer she is.
“Oh yeah you were great, honey,” he says. Then adds, “by the way the bathroom sink is blocked again.”
It’s a shame Rosita didn’t sing a bit more. Maybe her family would have heard the lyrics and realized they were missing something important.
Do you ever feel
Already buried deep
Six feet under
Screams but no one seems to hear a thing
Do you know that there’s
Still a chance for you
‘Cause there’s a spark in you
Rosita has a spark—a genuine and surprising talent—but no one in the family can see it. I wonder how often I’ve been blind to the abilities of the people I know and love. More specifically, I wonder how often I’ve treated my own mother and the mother of my children that way.
Rosita’s story might have ended there had it not been for a crazy scheme hatched by a manic koala desperate to save his theater. He’s holding a city-wide singing competition and Rosita decides to audition. She makes the cut and finds herself facing a new problem—getting support from the family so she can have the time to rehearse. No nanny is interested in taking on twenty-five active piglets and her husband Norman is oblivious to her plea for assistance. Having taken that first step back to her passion, though, she applies a little ingenuity to the problem. Her family wakes up to the embrace of a machine which prepares them for school and work just as efficiently as Rosita ever did.
Sadly, they don’t even notice she’s gone.
Their cluelessness is played up for comic effect, but I think it points to a real problem in our society. A lot of us take our moms for granted. Mom is just always there for a lot of us—as if she was issued with the home we grew up in. It’s easy to think of her as part of the furniture rather than an actual person with dreams and interests of her own.
It’s kind of like one of those hidden picture games where you’re looking at an elegant ballroom scene and you’re supposed to find a tuba, a pitchfork, and a submarine. At first glance it seems impossible, but the objects appear as you look more carefully at the details.
Maybe it would be a good idea to treat mom the same way—spend a few minutes acting like you’ve only just met her. What would you ask if she was someone you didn’t know? She might surprise you.
I know mine did.
You would think that after fifty-two years, I’d know my mother pretty well. Except during a recent conversation, she mentioned to me that she and Dad made it a point to see all the James Bond films when they first came out. Even when they had very little money, they managed to make dates of it. Imagining her and Dad sitting in a theater watching Sean Connery made me smile. James Bond has been one of my fandoms for years, but I didn’t ever expect that I’d share it with my mom.
Rosita’s family remains clueless about her passion until the finale of the film, when Norman and the piglets take seats in the front row for the big show. Rosita wows the crowd with a flawless performance of “Shake It Off.” When she performs a quick costume change and appears on stage in a sequined dance outfit, Norman’s jaw literally drops. He had no idea his wife was such an awesome performer.
Strutting across the stage, Rosita sings:
I never miss a beat, I’m lightning on my feet
And that’s what they don’t see, that’s what they don’t see
Her courage is vindicated when her family rushes the stage and buries her under a literal pig pile. They’ve finally seen the talent she’s been trying to share with her for the whole film.
I’ve been blessed with great moms in my life. My own mother was a military wife who supported my dad as we moved to bases across the US and around the world. It can’t have been easy for her leaving the life she knew to journey to remote outposts, but I never once heard her complain and she always managed to make a home wherever we were. My wife has been equally amazing, adopting and adapting to a hopelessly geeky husband and two equally geeky sons with grace and style.
When I asked my eldest son if he remembered his mom surprising him with anything geeky he said, “Not really. She married you. I think that’s geeky enough.”
You know what? I think he’s right. And I think I’m blessed to have a wife he sees and supports my geekery and a mom who has the right to her own pastimes.