Margaret experienced her first stage mom recently. This is how the conversation went:
Margaret: “Mom, I saw a stage mom!”
Me: (Trying to seem nonchalant.) “Oh yeah?”
Margaret: “Oh my gosh, it was awful. I over heard them in the bathroom. The girl is auditioning for another conservatory at school and her mom kept saying she has to do everything perfectly. I felt so bad for her.”
Me: “Wow, that is unfortunate.”
Margaret: “I am SO glad you’re not like that!”
Me: “I am too, Margaret.”
And it’s the truth. I will never be a stage mom.
I developed an aversion for stage moms at an early age. I experienced these destructive creatures all the time as a young performer, especially as a dancer during competitions. And I felt the same way as Margaret did: really sad for my peers that they felt pressure when they should have just been having fun.
Some experts say stage moms feel the need to live vicariously through their children. They are characterized as extremely insecure individuals who believe that if their child is successful, they will be successful. The problem with this is that when their children fail, they feel as if they’ve failed as well.
While some may be motivated by this theory, I think many of them are just glorified helicopter parents. And in that case, I actually can sympathize with them on some level. Because even though I never really understood the helicopter parent mindset, I really do understand the maternal need to want to protect your child from failure and rejection.
In her book “The Gift of Failure,” Jessica Lahey addresses this biological need for parents to protect their children from failing. She discusses the long-term negative impacts of helicopter parenting on kids and how it leaves them unprepared to succeed in life. Why? Because they are so afraid to fail that they fall apart when they go out on their own. I do not doubt that stage moms, like helicopter parents, love their children; but as Ms. Lahey illustrates in her book, they are not doing their children any favors if they want them to transition into well-adjusted adults.
As Margaret auditions for shows at her school, she’s learning very quickly that you win some and you lose many more. Especially when you’re competing with some of the most talented students in the county, as she is. Each time she auditions, I get excited for her. Not necessarily for the outcome I want, which is for her to land a part. I’d be a liar if I said I didn’t want that for her. But I also see real, long-term value in the times she doesn’t land the part she wants or even gets cast in the show at all. Because each disappointment just makes her more hardy. Like the calluses on her fingers she’s developed from practicing guitar make it easier to play without pain, as my husband reminds me as I lament the pain I feel as I teach myself to play. Each time she doesn’t get what she wants, she learns the importance of perspective – and that there will always be another opportunity to try for.
As for me, I’m officially calling myself an offstage mom – a support role. Audition enablement, if you will. I’m there to help her by listening to her practice her audition songs, providing honest feedback with her monologues, and helping her improve her dancing. But that’s where it ends. I won’t tell her what to audition for, what to audition with, threaten her that if she does not execute a perfect audition that she won’t get the part – or even worse, belittle her when she doesn’t. Nope, not this mom. And if I ever catch anybody doing that to their kid, God help that person. They’re going to get the meanest, nastiest look they’ve ever seen from another mom and I just might even say something. (Gasp! How unlike me!)
Hopefully, in time, Margaret will adopt my (perhaps warped) attitude that auditions are performances unto themselves.