Sunday, August 30, 2009

Mom, Killer of All Dreams

I've always considered myself a supportive mom. Wherever my children find joy, I'll support their choices, no matter what. Like when my little one declared she wanted to grow up to be a dogwalker, I said "Great! Let's practice," and handed her our dog's leash. She gave up on that dream when she found out that picking up poo was involved. Sorry, kid. I don't enjoy it either.

Up to now, this strategy has been conflict-free. My eldest loves fencing and wants to be a scientist (for now, of course. I realize this may change.) Okay. So we schlep to fencing lessons, sign up for classes at the Natural History Museum, and escort her out to marine bio camp. Great. Knock yourself out.

My little one likes tennis and wants to be famous. Tennis is easy enough. Kind of a pain in the ass in Manhattan, but doable. Famous? Oh sure, how cute, right? No. She wants to be famous RIGHT NOW. She's caught on to the fact that kids can be models and actors. A child we know has a small part this summer in her second movie, this time alongside a very dreamy movie star. So little one wants me to send some photos off to a talent agency and set her on the road to stardom. 

I explained that it was a tough business. IF she even got started, she'd be trying out for jobs just based on looks and often she wouldn't get them. I know (well!) how much rejection sucks. I'm a grown woman and sometimes I die a little after reading "...not for us. Good luck." I can't imagine being a child and someone telling me I wasn't pretty enough, or tall enough, or thin enough. The feminist in me is screaming--positively bursting to get out!--but I toned her down. 

At least with writing, I can pretend that my manuscript was good, it just wasn't right for their list. No one's implying that I'm ugly, or too chubby, or have stumpy legs, or whatever. And even if everyone hated my writing, I could always put an effort into improving. Not so with modeling.

I'm not maligning other people's choices for their children. Not every child in that business leads the life of Toddlers & Tiaras. I do think most stage moms probably have what's best for their child in mind. But, just...I can't. Not yet.

So I said no. When she's older, fine. And I'm happy to sign her up for drama lessons or whatever she likes. If she still wants to act when she's grown, I'll be sitting in the front row.

I did the right thing. Right? Yes? I hope so. Or am I foisting my issues on my kid? 

What would you do?


Amy said...

You're doing the right thing. I have so much to say on this subject--some from (small) personal experience, so I won't bore everyone. I'll just reiterate: you're doing the right thing. ;o)
Any my eldest daughter used to dream of being a ghost or a butterfly when she grew up. Hmm...

Allie said...

I was a theatre major originally. At one point I had a manager and was commuting into NYC for auditions. I was told to my face (as if I wasn't even there) thinks like "She really needs a boob job if she thinks she's going to be in this business," or, "One of her front teeth is slightly longer than the other." So, I would say you made the right call. I would hope that people would be kinder to children, but too afraid that maybe they wouldn't be.

Although, it was character building, and made all those writing rejections easier, because at least it wasn't something being said to my face. Letters don't hurt as much.

Alissa Grosso said...

Definitely you made the right decision. I was actually talking about this topic, well, the topic of parents encouraging us to follow our dreams. My parents have always been supportive, and I think it has had a positive influence on my life and my sister's life. That said taking on what is essentially a grown-up job as a kid is too much. She should enjoy being a kid, and there's nothing wrong with community theatre or the school play, church or school choir. She can still perform if that's what she wants. If she really enjoys it, then there's always adulthood for becoming a professional.

Debra Lynn Shelton said...

I wanted to be famous when I was little. Surprise, surprise, it didn't happen. My mom basically said, "Too bad, kid. Find something else to do." I'm still looking for that something else... (kidding!)

And ditto to what Alissa said.

Spy Scribbler said...

You can always make it a goal. If she devotes herself to drama lessons, spends a year acting in like ten plays, and finds that she's still crazy about it, rabidly determined, then (only if you wanted to) you could reconsider.

As a piano teacher who's thrust hundreds of kids on stage, though, I think you lose part of the protective instinct. :-) Looking back on my own life, the worst performances, the scariest performances, and the ones I cried over, were all the best learning experiences of my life.

Besides, it's much better the way you did it and the attitude you have. The truly scary and awful and terrible experiences that make one nauseous are almost always when the mom wants it more than the child.

Anonymous said...

Depends. You can hope that your child turns out like Emma Watson but you loath the idea she might become a Britney Spears.

Success at this age can be more devastating than failure at least when it comes to Hollyweird.

WendyCinNYC said...

Thanks, Alissa and Debra. Something to think about.

Natasha--I'm not really trying to protect her from failure. She plays piano, tennis, and fencing and has much experience with losing. My issue is with the modeling industry itself. Could I subject a little girl to physical scrutiny and still be all "Love you for you! Be happy with yourself!"? I dunno.

ralfast--Good point!

colbymarshall said...

I think you"re right to wait til she's older. However, I think it's a great idea to get her involved in a local community theatre group where it's about fun and getting some experience. Trust me, it did wonders for me :)

WendyCinNYC said...

I think I probably will, Colby. She asked to go to "acting camp" next summer, and I'm looking into that as well. That kind of thing is fine by me.

Janna Leadbetter said...

I think you did right. Given it's a new desire, and one she's got stars in her eyes over, it's best to tiptoe in and let her feet get damp. Well done, Mom!

Melanie Hooyenga said...

That's a tough decision, I'm sure. I like Colby's suggestion for drama camps and that sort of thing. Then she'll get a taste for what's involved with acting, besides the "being famous" part.

Good luck. :)

Laura Petreyko said...

I think you did great, Wendy. At least she actually wants to DO something to be famous (and I know "do something" can seem oxymoronic when discussing modeling, but...). I mean, if she said she wanted to be Heidi Montag or Paris Hilton I would be MUCH more concerned! LOL Boy, being a Mom is tough sometimes, huh?

WendyCinNYC said...

Thanks, Mel and Janna. Tiptoeing and tasting I can deal with.

Laura--She doesn't know (yet) who those people are, thank god. Right now, she idolizes the 11th grader who had the lead in her school play.

Shelli (srjohannes) said...

yes you did the right thing - of t is her calling - she will have anothr chance

Ladybird World Mother said...

Absolutely definitely, without a doubt did the right thing!
My niece, now in her twenties is at last following her chosen career as an actress... you need to be big and grown up for all that rejection... would be simply awful for child. Good decision.

ac said...


(well, somebody had to say it)

*leaves thread laughing way too hard at a lame joke*

WendyCinNYC said...

Thanks, Ladybird and Shelli.

AC-Pbbbt. You naughty girl.

Actually, I was a little concerned when I posted this that I was a) oversharing and b) way off base. It's been known to happen.