• Tue, Oct 16 2012

I Can’t Stand To Watch My Child Audition

child auditionI had to leave the room. I had a knot in my stomach the entire day of her audition.

My daughter was auditioning for a part in Beauty and the Beast. Of course, because she’s a confident little girl, she wanted the part of Beauty. While she’s good, she certainly wasn’t the best. But telling your daughter that it was very doubtful that she was going to get the part of Beauty, not just because there were way more experienced actors, who were also older than her, is tricky.

I want her to keep that confidence, but I also want her to know that she can’t always get what she wants (as the song goes.) So, I told her that whatever part she ends up getting will be an amazing experience and that I’ll be proud of her no matter what. But it’s completely painful to have to watch your daughter audition and then watch other kids audition who are clearly much more talented. I hated every second of it. In fact, I only lasted 10 minutes before I had to leave the room and go get a coffee.

As adults, we learn to keep our expectations in check. We may be up for a job, but we know others are too, so though we know we have a chance, we also know it’s no guarantee. But children don’t know this yet. And this is a good thing. I want my daughter to know that the world is her oyster, and that everything she wants to do in life, she can do. Of course, this is not true. For example, if she wants to be a doctor, but fails all her math courses, well, it’s pretty much a guarantee that she’s not going to get into medical school.

I also am not a pushy mother. I didn’t make my daughter practice her audition for hours and hours and weeks before the actual audition date. I didn’t want to make it into a big deal, for fear that she’d think it was a huge deal, and then be exceptionally disappointed when she didn’t get the part she wanted. I don’t know how mothers of want-to-be professional dancers or singers or performers do it. Or for that matter, parents of children who try out for sports teams. How can they sit there and watch their children try out without getting sick to their stomach, like I did.

This is a fine line in parenting. You of course want your children’s dreams to come true, but you also have to pick up the pieces when they don’t happen. Maybe I am too laid back about these things. I believe my daughter is talented, but how talented?

I have to admit I was shocked last year when my daughter won a prestigious writing award at her school during the graduating ceremony. Out of more than a hundred children, she won first place. I was in the audience, practically falling asleep as I watched child after child getting their diplomas walking on stage and shaking the headmistress’s hand. Then they announced the winners of this writing award. Some child won third place. Then some child won second place. And then, suddenly, I was woken up when I heard my daughter’s name being called for winning FIRST place. I had no idea that she would win. As they announced the third and second place winners, I actually thought, “Oh god, I’m going to have to explain to her that she can try again next year.” Instead, she won, and I cried with pride. And, I hate to admit it, but I didn’t think she would win. Does that make me an awful parent?

All I know is that I’m not cut out to be a momager. I can’t deal with my daughter losing, while at the same time, teach her to be a good loser. I have to explain that she has to keep her expectations in check, while still encouraging her to try her best and go after her dreams. Man, this parenting thing is hard. If she’s upset, then I’m upset. And that’s just the way it is.

(photo: olly/ Shutterstock)

You can reach this post's author, Rebecca Eckler, on twitter.
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  • Sara

    I think that what you told her was perfect–it’s an honor to be picked for any part, it will be a good experience, and you’ll be proud of her no matter what. If she doesn’t get the part she wants, she can make a great impression by showing dedication and diligence during rehearsals, playing her part to the best of her ability, and working to improve whatever parts of her performance were weak. Then she can try again for the next audition, and hope for a better part. Believe me, the directors will notice someone with a good attitude and work ethic, and they’ll remember it (and want to reward it) the next time they see her.
    There’s nothing wrong with being realistic and encouraging realism in your child. I can’t tell you how many students I’ve had who thought they were going to be the next American Idol, but had no grasp of basic musical concepts, no rehearsal discipline and weren’t particularly hard-working. In my opinion, one of the most dangerous sayings out there is “You can have anything you want as long as you want it badly enough.” Uh, no…..if you really want something and you’re willing to work your ass off for it, you can IMPROVE your chances of reaching your goal, but there are no guarantees. And just sitting around wanting something isn’t going to get it for you.
    At some point, your daughter will need to decide whether she wants to be a serious performer. If she does, then it will require a tremendous amount of work and dedication, all with the knowledge that there will still be a very high likelihood that she’ll do everything right and still fail. When that day comes, you can support her in her choice and hold her to high standards–that will be the time when she WILL need to practice her audition for hours a day, starting weeks before the audition, in order to be competitive. But for now, she’s just a kid and simply the experience of being in a show–even if it’s in the chorus or as Tree #2–will be good for her.

  • MommyK

    You seem to have done a great job in handling the situation. My infant has a way to go before reaching the age of try-outs and auditions, but I certainly empathize with you. I even felt a pit in my stomach while reading this, just imagining one day when I have a similar experience at hockey try-outs or competing at a music festival. It’s obvious you love your daughter so much, and I think the realism approach is needed for today’s kids, instead of the usual “you can be anything you want to be” approach without enstilling the work ethic or realism needed with it. Kudos (and good luck to your daughter)!

  • To Celebrate Women

    Honestly, that sounds realistic yet tactful. If your daughter finds something she’s really passionate about, then you can get into the crazy practice schedules and being a “momager”. But at her age it should be about having fun and developing the basics. Good article. I like the tone you’ve been taking lately.