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The Family Room by Michelle Martin

October 28, 2007

An Idol in the Family

Ever since Caroline was 5 or 6, she’s harbored a not-so-secret dream of becoming a pop star. She sang and danced around the house, to the radio or CDs, using anything from Tinker Toys to wooden spoons for microphones.

While we’ve enjoyed her singing, taking it public has always remained in the realm of fantasy. I don’t know that I’d ever want her to live a pop-star life, the sweetness of “Hannah Montana” notwithstanding.

So I was pleasantly surprised this fall when she announced she wanted to be in a karaoke contest at her school, an annual fundraiser for the music department. And unlike other participants from her class, who sang duets, she wanted to perform solo.

That kicked off about three weeks of stress, from finding the right song (“Why Wait?” by the Cheetah Girls, which has a kind of “carpe diem” message, for those who don’t have regular Radio Disney listeners in their households) to practicing it over and over in her room, to agonizing over whether she really could do this.

Two hours before her performance, she still wasn’t sure. A half-hour before, she was pretty sure she couldn’t. But she really wanted to.

And before she knew it, we were there, and the show had started. The kids who sang before her took the stage with varying degrees of confidence, but no matter how tentative they looked, their schoolmates in the audience and the parents who came to listen cheered them on. The three “commentators”— not judges, because they were not there to criticize—had no trouble finding lots of good things to say about everyone’s performance.

When it was Caroline’s turn, she climbed on the stage, stood right in the middle and took the microphone from the music teacher and sang. Her voice was as clear and steady as it had been all those times I heard her singing in her room, and the audience quieted down to listen. The other kids started to clap to the rhythm, and then to wave their arms back and forth. She smiled as wide as she could as the audience applauded.

Still, it looked like she couldn’t wait to get down from the stage and rejoin the students.

Afterward, several parents told me how well Caroline sang. “I didn’t know she had such a beautiful voice,” they said. “She’s usually so quiet.”

I was proud that she had done it, despite being so nervous she wasn’t sure she could. I’ve always told her that being brave means doing what you think you should, even when you’re afraid, and I’ve always told her she’s one of the bravest people I know.

Martin is assistant editor of the Catholic New World. Contact her at [email protected].