Monday, September 12, 2011

Try-outs: Are you a good enough parent?

I have butterflies.  My palms are sweating and my heart is racing.  I can feel a bead of sweat slide down the center of my back.  It's try-outs!

The coaches are timing and scoring.  The music director and choreographer are listening and checking rhythm.  I can't stand it.  The competition - those other people vying for the same limited spots.  Then the "if we call your name, go to this room, otherwise, wait here" part.  How can anyone stand it?

Try-outs are more nerve-wracking for the parents than for the kids.  Over the past few weeks, my kids have gone to try-outs and auditions for the tennis team, the swim team, and a drama production. The nervous looks of the other parents confirm that I am not alone in my hysteria. 

For the kids, it's about making the team or being cast for the show.  But for the me - it's about whether I've done a good job as a mom, right?  Did I take them to enough practices, did I rehearse the songs and the lines enough, did I encourage them enough?  Did he have the right pre-game meal to make it through the try-out?  Should she have had some lemon tea before having to sing?  Did I give them a big enough hug before they went out there to face the judges?  Do you love your child enough to make them the very best they can be? 

Each parent is trying to gauge their child against the other kids.  Some sly ones will even ask questions of other parents for information gathering.  "So, does your child take any lessons?" "How long has your child been playing?" "And how old is your child?"  (This one starts in the early toddler years as parents try to figure out why your child can climb the playground steps on her own)  Or they try to cover up how important this is to them.  "Well, we're not sure of this will even fit into his schedule, he's so busy, so we'll just see what happens." It's all because every parent knows, your child's selection to the team/play/choir/band, is a direct reflection, not on the child's own talent and skill, but your abilities as a parent to raise a smart, industrious, talented kid.

At the try-outs, if you are given the option, you must watch your child's performance.  Partly so that you can check out the competition.  But also because this is part of your parental grade, as well.  Are you attentive and interested in your child?  Or are you playing Words with Friends while your kid is fighting for his life?  I'm sure I'm losing some points by typing instead of focusing fully on my child.  In fact, when the swim coach said "you can wait here - if your child's not doing well in the beginning, we will take him  out of the pool", I left the pool deck and headed to the overhead seats because my thought was "my son is not coming out of the pool 'til this is over".  I think I should get some extra credit for confidence.

But the drama people, they obviously have done this before.  No parents allowed in the audition room.  They know that while we'll be making our own kids nervous, we'll be judging the other kids.  Parents would be trying to get their daughter to pat down her hair or their son to stop playing with his shoes, making what they think are subtle gestures from the sidelines. 

You could of course, opt out of it all and not have your child try-out for anything.  Instead, they could hang out at home with any other friends who happen not to be doing anything.  They could ride their bikes or sit on the steps and read.  They could get together a game of kickball or play on the playground.  They could make up their own songs and dance around the kitchen.  But then – who would see them and know how beautiful they are? 

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