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Monday, November 19, 2007

Stage Mom?

Let me start by saying that I'm kidding with the title of this post. For me, the hardest thing in the world is to be a mother to my middle daughter and her NEED for performing. First of all, even though it's not at all about me, it gives me hives when this child insists on performing at every talent show this side of the Mississippi. I get so nervous for her that I want to die. My oldest daughter has the same affliction and begs her sister NOT to perform.

In spite of the fact that her sister and mother are neurotic, Maddie was born to perform. As I've mentioned here a time or two, she is a clogger and we travel near and far for her to compete individually and with her team. She also sings...constantly, and writes, directs, casts and stars in her own plays. This is no exaggeration, she wrote her first play when she was 10, casted all her friends, called the Senior Center to see if she could use the hall, made up flyers, sold tickets, baked cookies and performed her play in front of about 20 people. Literally, the only thing I contributed? Picking up the juice for the drinks and helping her clean up - I'm not kidding.

Her major decisions every summer, all summer, are what talent shows she wants to do and whether she should dance or sing. Seriously. She is a very gracious kid and is one of the best sports I've ever seen, win or lose. If she loses, she is always the first one to go up to the winner and congratulate them and if she wins, she acts very humble. She saves all her Diva-shit for us lucky folks at home and we are constantly keeping her grounded.

When her clogging competitions are over, the entire drive home we have to hear how she can't wait for the next one and how she wishes she could be on stage every day. Even though this sounds cute and wow and all? It really is exhausting and can be annoying. Having a child that always has to be the center of attention, gets old. Sometimes, I just want to tell her to sit down and be quiet, blend in, don't be so damn......'out there'. Doesn't that seem awful? So unsupportive? Can't help it, it's just how I feel sometimes. There is nothing I hate worse than people that brag about their kids constantly. It annoys the crap out of me, so I seem to go overboard and really 'play down' whatever Maddie has going on.

Don't get me wrong. It makes us very proud when she does well, wins her competitions and shows so much dedication, but the rest of us are just NOT about performing and trying to stick out in a crowd, if you know what I mean.

Okay, okay, get to the point already, I know. Well, as I've mentioned, we are going to Branson, Missouri to stay with my dad for Thanksgiving. Well, my dad calls yesterday and proceeds to tell me that this guy he works with plays keyboards in two of the big shows down in Branson. Of course, proud grandpa that he is, he can't help but mention his middle grand-daughter's pension for the stage. After talking to this guy for awhile and bragging ad-nauseum, the guy says, "She should really audition for the clogging shows and kids' plays scheduled for next summer." WTF? Well, come to find out, this guy is one of the people who makes the decisions about what kids are going to be able to perform for 6-week stints at Silver Dollar City in Branson, Missouri. They have clogging shows, music revues and plays that are put on and participated in by kids.

As you can imagine, when this was mentioned to Maddie, the people in Minneapolis could hear her screaming. After she calmed down and we told her there was NO guarantee that she would make it, there are a lot of talented kids out there, you know, she said she didn't care, that if she just got to audition and have the chance, that's all she cared about. Blah, blah, blah.

John and I have mixed feelings about this. First of all, 6 WEEKS?? We run a business where I cannot be gone during the summer, it is NOT an option, which means Maddie would be gone and living in Branson, with my dad & step-mom for 6 weeks, should she be so fortunate to get this opportunity. Not to mention, she will be away from here and getting out of her chores and leaving behind her sisters to take up her slack. Seems petty, I know, but not when you are one of the sisters! And believe me, these two sisters have picked up her slack many times to make way for her passion of performing.

Of course, we want to be supportive of her dreams and would never think of telling her she couldn't do it if she did make it, but it does bring up some hesitations. The question we are constantly asking ourselves is, "how far do we let her go with this?"

I would love to hear opinions from you smart ladies (& men) out there. How far would you let your kids go? What are your thoughts on chasing dreams and what are the limits?


Sadie said...

It's a tough call. I can (try to) briefly tell you my experience. But there ARE two sides to the coin...and you are running a much more chore-filled life than I was...(I didn't live on a farm, most of the time).

I was like your daughter. I still am. I live for the stage. I danced (tap, jazz, ballet - starring in tap), I sing (I didn't so much back then), I act...you name it, I'm out there. I've been in local communnity theatre, I've auditioned for national tours. I used to do competitions out the arse, and have the trophies to prove it.

I had 'sensible' parents. They spent their life telling me that my performing was "nice" but that my dreams of making a life out of it weren't viable. That I had to have something to "fall back on."

I was a very obedient child. I listened to them. I went to college for "somthing to fall back on." I flunked out. I didn't take any dance classes, I didn't focus on dance as the reason for going to college....I flunked. The confidence I'd gained when I was younger and dancing flew out the door.

Two years later I tried college again, this time with a dance major. I got a 3.5 GPA, but my confidence was shot (despite being bumped up into 'advanced' classes my first semester). I dropped out, got preggers and never looked to perform again...

Until I met a dancer in CATS. Actually, several of them. After forming a light friendship with them, one of them told me I had to try auditioning for the CATS tours, despite not having solidly danced in 3 years. He told me "If you try and fail, at least you know. If you don't try, you spend a lifetime wondering."

From there, I did. I auditioned for CATS and Disney World. I came home and auditioned for community theatre until someone took a chance on me. My DH (we were freshly married) supported me in this. REAL support. He hated me being gone so much...but he loved seeing me perform. My confidence came back, I was singing (*gasp*) solos onstage. I was the dance captain of every show. I was a star...

My life now has no performing in it, sadly...except for 20+ shows a day for the girls *lol* But I'm so glad for every performance I had.

I love my parents, but I wish my father hadn't waited until I was an adult to support me. When I was young he didn't support me at all, was trying to be logical and push my scientific brain (Which I have but don't like using as much)...and it wasn't until I was in college, and then married, that he tried to get me more involved in performing.

Appreciate what your daughter has, as tiring as it is (which I see you do). If she gets in, it's a HUGE thing. I'm sure you know how HUGE Branson is (my friend used to do the lighting there). I say let her go...unless you truly believe it would make her impossible to live with upon her return (my DS is a bear when he gets back from his grandparents). Let her find the joy.

Dreams are so very important. I'd let her do it...but that's the performer in me.

Yeah, that wasn't so short. Sorry.

Erikka said...

Hm...As an adult, there is the rational side of us (is it the frontal lobe..?) that can recognize when a passion begins to usurp others' needs and relationships. We then cut back, devote time to others, or stop the relationship, whichever works.

As a child, you can't see this and the parent acts as the frontal lobe of the brain for him or her. I'm not sure how to do it, but I think the "staying grounded" part you are trying to instill in Maddie is the needed and necessary balancing force to her talent and charisma. If she does go to the 6 week show, what can she give back to the family before or after? How will she spend time with the family or friends during?

My friends' high school aged brothers' band was offered a record deal and a tour. He wanted this so badly but he would have to drop out of high school. His parents did not allow him to do this and being the kind of son he was, he obeyed them. I haven't had a chance to ask him if he regrets this decision, but he is now a senior in college majoring in computer engineering and mathematics. Smart guy. And through all this, if he has really been passionate about following his music dream, could he not have been playing in bands and shows while in college?

I don't know if any of this helps or not...

Angie said...

Thanks for much to the two of you. Sadie - what you said touched my heart and really spoke to how I feel about this. My dad also discouraged my brother from following his dreams b/c "that doesn't make any money." My brother regrets it to this day. If you can't follow your dreams as a child, when will you be able to do it? There is plenty of time to be a grown-up later, right? Even though I have hesitations, I can't imagine telling her to give it up. Thanks so much for your words.

Erikka - What you said also makes so much sense. As long as Maddie has us to fall back on and can trust us not to let her get too 'high' on herself, she will be fine. Your idea of asking what she can do before and after her trip is a good one and something we hadn't thought of. Talking to her about this before she goes is a great idea.

Thanks again to both of you - you truly have given me great suggestions!

Have a great Thanksgiving.

Madeline said...

OK. You have already gotten good feedback on both sides but I can't resist commenting here - seeing as I am a red-headed Maddie who was a director and actor most of my life, starting at about ten years old. I even produced my own plays. I hoped to have a daughter like her. wow. My kids wants to hunt deer. Eerie...

Anyway, I would absolutely, positively, completely support her in this. However hard she might be to live with after coming back filled with herself (and that won't always be the case, so why not?) she will be much more unbearable if you keep her from her dreams. She sounds pretty grounded. How can she help but be living on a farm. Sounds like you already know this. You're a good mom. It can't be easy with the farming.

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving. I hope you don't have to do too much of the cooking. You do enough!

Mrs. G. said...

You know for me it would depend on the environment surrounding the show. Would there be responsible adults around to make sure she was supervised? Would there be other kids around to play with. Maybe you could talk to other parents whose children who have performed and get there perspective.

That said, if everything seems positive and on the up and up, I would let her go for it. Some kids are blessed to know their passion and their calling. She is a doll. Good luck.

Kat said...

I read this post almost holding my breath! I was very similar as a kid, and got a lot of hesitation and stops from my mom, and just no help... it had a profound effect on me, and I gave up on being an artist for a while, gave up on pursuing my dream. Things like that affect people diffently, but... its so important to have the love and support and understanding of your family. I didn't have it...and I know what I was missing!
Please let her go ALL THE WAY with it!! She is an artist. It isnt' just about BEING the center of attention, it is about communicating, about helping people, cheering them up, being a bright spot in a often dismal world. She may not know those things yet, but that's the truth of it, and I hope you are proud to be the mother of a child who has those talents and is so driven!!! Support her, just as much as you would support her if she wanted to be a veterinarian or a teacher... help her... and keep her feet on the ground. But don't dare squash her.

I have to say also that I totally disagree with stopping a child from pursuing their dreams to finish school if they have an amazing opportunity - I did, and I did not listen to my parents and I'm thankful every day for that decision! I went back and got my HS diploma, because I wanted it. But never did need it. I have always worked as an artist or in artistic fields or owned my own busineses.

VERY good idea to get her in on the game of helping out more before and afterwards. I'm sure you can handle it with her so that you and her siblings don't feel put out by what you all have to do or sacrifice for her. She has to contribute just as much as everyone - but it may be in spurts or in a different way. I'm sure she'd be able to see and understand that she has to be a contributing member of the family too, especially since helping her is a pain for you. Being reminded of her responsibilities and being expected to maintain them will be good for her...
Hope she makes it! What an opportunity!

Anonymous said...

Well. I canot really comment on what you should do with Maddie, as my kids are still toddlers...but I wanted to let you know I'd so be feeling the way you do. My husband and I are in no way shape or form into being in the spotlight, in fact we avoid it like the plague. And I worry that my son is going to be an attention hound. I will probably be just like you are if that happens and I think that's ok. It's ok to have your own doubts, fears (and exhaustion!!:) concerning your daughters VERY active life on stage. I think you're doing a wonderful job and I'm sure you'll make the right decision. Love your blog, btw!! :)