The Truth About Stage Mothers

Z has now had a whopping two rehearsals for her upcoming gig as Gretl in the Sound of Music and while the first one went fairly well, after this last one, I'm fighting a sense of impending doom. I know, I know. Give it time! We'll get used to the new schedule! She'll learn her songs and lines and where she's supposed to stand! She'll figure out she's supposed to actually pay attention when the director is giving instructions instead of, oh, say, putting her shoes on her hands and pretending to walk all over her chair with them!

Yeah. I'm not so sure.

You see, Z has many wonderful qualities - as her mother, I must emphasize the "many" - but self control isn't one of them. Neither is patience or paying attention in an even minorly chaotic situation. She gets revved up in new situations and her excitement spins into physical expression that could be just the bizarre behavior of a normal 6 year old or could be the basis for one of several diagnoses.

(Unfortunately, that last part is not hyperbole.)

I sat in the room for the last two rehearsals, far enough away that I could only watch helplessly as she stuck her hands in her pockets and pulled her dress down so hard her neck elongated like a turtle reaching for food, oblivious to what the director was asking her to do. As I walked her back to the car through the rain last night, I didn't tell her I was concerned she missed important information she will be expected to know at the next rehearsal. I didn't mention the fact that she raised her hand when the director asked who knew the whole song "off book" and then proceeded to look around distractedly and NOT SING while everyone else sang along.

I did not say anything last night because my feelings were a jumble of concern and vanity, love and fear. I couldn't work out if I was upset about it because I feared it reflected on my parenting, on ME. I could still taste the metallic bite of fear that rose in my throat as I watched my 6 year old play with her pencil and pull on her clothes and loll her head around and NOT SING and I immediately feared for her adult future in any pursuit. How can she ever succeed if this is how she behaves when rehearsing for something she is super excited about?

I fought all those fears and I said nothing. I held her hand in mine and I got her home quickly to tuck her in just barely past her bedtime.

Today I sat with her, gently but repeatedly focusing her attention on her script and we went through the songs line by line. I did not enjoy this experience, as it was clear to me that after a full day of school, doing what she's told to do, and an afternoon swim lesson, doing what's she's told to do, this girl who has to work extra hard to hold herself together needed to be loud and silly and messy and hang upside down and NOT do what she's been told to do, if only for a few hours in the day.

Oh I am struggling. We allowed her to audition and to take this part because she was so excited about the idea. We signed up for this and implicitly agreed to help her succeed. But none of us had any real clue how she'd fare at this. Who knows? Maybe she'll rise to the occasion and the success will be a current that carries her forward.

I do know this: this is why stage mothers are a THING. It takes some serious energy and clarity of purpose to push your kid so that they can succeed at something as exacting as performing. I want to help Z succeed at this, because she insists she loves it and wants it so much. So I will run her lines with her and help her practice her songs over and over again, because that is what it takes.

But today I just wanted to have a pillow fight with my 6 year old and then dance to Katy Perry and talk in her loud, emphatic made-up language.

My girl wants so desperately to be IN a play but mostly I just want her to PLAY.


Therese said...

Wow. I KNOW. I mean, just at a girl scout sing along for a retirement home I find myself in the back, miming "bigger smile!" and doing jazz hands. And your kid actually has a real part. With people depending on her. And now you have to find out if this is a good direction and a viable outlet for her, and the process of finding out is excrutiating. I don't know what to say except...this is a really original(the "stage mom's" pov) but familiar (my kid isn't doing good enough) post. I really enjoyed reading it.

clueless but hopeful mama said...

Therese- Thank you for this comment. As always, it helps so much to know there are others out there who struggle with the same stuff.

momof3 said...

You will be surprised how she may rise to the occassion and how this may all pan out. I have watched many shows up until the night before opening and dreading how awful it was going to be because no one knew their lines, where to stand, etc... to be surprised at how well it all turned out on the day or days that counted the most. Hang in there. It so so difficult to be the mom, though.

shannon said...

Oh my gosh. This is exactly what I am going through with my 6 yr old son, not the part abotu being in a play, but the part about seeing him and who he is and what he needs and knowing in my hear that he will struggle. Knowing in my heart, and now, finally, in my head that he HAS ADHD. It is no longer a fleeting thought. I have come to realize it through and through. Though he hasn't yet been diagnosed, after watching video clips over at www.caddac.ca about 30 things parents need to know about ADHD, my son's life and my life are in every word. Oh I cried... I cried out of sadness for what is, and I cried with relief to finally have me fears validated. Now I can move forward and try to help guide him through situations, knowing how his brain works and how he will need to be supported to be as successful as I know he can be if given the right chance in the right environment with tons of patience and coping strategies. He is a funny, sweet, goofy, silly, thoughtful, sensitive boy, just as you've described Z on so many occasions. I often read your words and see my own life in them. I appreciate how you continue to share so that others, like myself can see that I am not alone. All I can say is that Z is so lucky to have you as her Mom, seeing and feeling and KNOWING her so well. That's really all she needs to make it in life, a Mom who loves her and is in her corner through it all. She may do just fine through the play. She may not know her lines or the words to the song and may do something goofy in the middle of the stage, but it may not matter to her one bit if she is having fun. My son stood in front of 200 parents at his Christmas concert this year in grade one, making silly noises into the microphone when he was supposed to be singing with his class. On the very last note of the song, right on cue, he made a big fart noise into the microphone and laughed his head off walking off stage. There was no malice in what he did. He was not trying to mess up the play or be a bad kids, he was just having a really good time. My husband and I slunk down in our chairs trying hard not to laugh, turning beat red and thinking OMG!!! That's OUR KID! I hope it turns out well for her, what ever that means for her.

shannon said...

oh boy, there are lots of typos in that one, sorry! I hope you can make sense of it!! That's me typing too fast, trying to get to my chores and read your blog at the same time!

shannon said...

I just wanted to clarify... I am not meaning to say that Z has ADHD, just that I know that gut feeling you talked about, that mother's instinct that something is ... different about your child and you are not sure what it means for her, for you, etc. Sorry if it came out wrong! That's all. Geez, I'm sure sounding neurotic :)

clueless but hopeful mama said...

shannon- No need for apologies! Your sympathy/empathy came through loud and clear in your comments.

And also? Would you email me, please?

shannon said...

Will do.

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