Show minus five months - all change! Upstagers have been offered the opportunity to stage one of the very first productions of the schools' edition of Miss Saigon. Huge excitement. I know nothing about the show except that it's a bit like Madame Butterfly. The audition date goes in the diary and various other things have to come out.
Show minus four months - auditions. The buzz starts early. BBM messages flash around my kitchen table. "There's no dancing! It's all singing!" What to do? We have exams. We are busy. It will be the fifth show of the year. I listen to their deliberations and a part of me thinks - phew! They decide not to audition, worried by the unfamiliar territory. I nearly scratch show week from my diary but something makes me leave it in.
Show minus three months - after a couple of conversations we're back in. No there's not much dancing but there are a few big ensemble pieces which will be fun. I gird my loins. Rehearsals begin and my weekends disappear. I cancel plans, decline invitations and try to manage busy diaries, apologising to those existing commitments that get let down. We juggle GCSEs, my uni exam, music exams, ballet exams, gym competitions and school. Life is hectic.
Show minus one month. A trip to Primark to source bits of costume. We buy tickets - the matinee as the evening show is a bit late for the Little Ones. (Little did I know...) Rehearsals heat up. Diary clashes become worse and worse. Commitments were made after they had decided not to audition. I try to keep my cool. I wonder why on earth I get caught up in all these shows.
Show minus two weeks. A family meal in Pizza Express A phone call. "How tall is your little boy? Can you bring him to rehearsals at 7 on Tuesday?" He goes to bed at 7. "Yes."
Show minus one week. A rare trip to the doctor's with my daughter. "It's vertigo. Try not to move your head too quickly." Perfect.
Show minus three days. My husband leaves the house early to build the set and returns much later raving about the number of lights and the sound effects. I'm starting to feel excited.
Show minus two days - I wander around Sainsbury's looking for wholesome yet fast food that can be produced at the drop of a hat. I buy plasters to stop tap shoes tapping. I make sure that our supplies of grips and hairspray are topped up. My children look tired already.
Show minus one day - I catch the last ten minutes of the performance as I wait to pick them up. I weep.
Showtime - I chaperone. No child may be left unaccompanied. I scamper around backstage trying to keep track of my charges. I make lots of shushing noises and tell teenagers to pipe down whilst directing all complaints at my own children because it's easier than shouting at someone else's. Opening night is a huge success. Everything runs like clockwork. The audience cheer. Ticket sales soar.
The run continues. I dress in black - so not my colour - I wait for cues, I follow children, I hang up clothes, I sort out disputes, I take children to the loo but most of all I enjoy the buzz. The show is going well. The theatre is packed and everyone is working hard together. The atmosphere is intoxicating.
And that's why we do it. I moan and I complain and I chunter about my lost weekends and my tired children but then when the run starts it is all forgotten. Every time they are involved in a show they grow a little in confidence. The learn how to work with others and what it is to be part of a team. They see the seniors and they are inspired to try harder. They are so proud of their involvement in the production and so am I but I'm not just proud of my own children. Somehow I am proud of every one of those young people who give their hearts and souls to every single moment of the performance. I am always an emotional wreck by the end. The songs go around my head in a never-ending cycle and I burst into tears when I remember particular moments. The children look on, bemused.
But most of all I am so very grateful that we get the chance to be a part of something so special and I know that the precious memories of these happy days will never leave us.