So, yesterday I encountered a fresh, newbie stage dad. Another “first” comment I often hear from people either new to the business or not in the business at all is this one, ” I just want him to be a kid!” It’s more often than not a judgmental statement that really means,
” Gee, you-meaning me- are robbing your child of his childhood, innocence, playfulness, joy, etc. etc.”
Ok. Let’s take a look at this. To me, this statement is so far off base because my main job in all of this is to keep my children children! I am, in so many ways, actually keeping my children younger for longer. It’s a real irony if your kid is thick in the business because as far as personal behavior and work ethic they are expected to be mini adults. Let me explain.
First, my children watch Scooby Doo and play with legos like all the rest. They do not toil in lessons for ten hours a day after doing regular school. My children love to skateboard. My daughter is a little budding artist. All three enjoy making rainbow loom bracelets. They have an abundance of child like interests outside of performing. Yes, they attend lessons and auditions, and my oldest sits backstage while he is doing national tours or Broadway shows. ( And most backstage experiences with a group of kids are a LOT of fun with card games, movies, snacks, and joking around- except for one tour where all they could do is homework.)There are sacrifices there, but the sacrifices come out of the kids’ joy of performing. As I wrote in an earlier blog, their sacrifices for the business just prove they want to be doing it.
Secondly, the experiences my kids have had in performing have not robbed them of anything but only enhanced and enriched their upbringing. How many children have visited over fifty cities and the vast resources within those cities? While on tour, twice, my children got to go to Disney World and Universal Studios. That’s a pretty great way to enjoy childhood; don’t you think?
Thirdly, My oldest was kept from traditional school for 2 1/2 years while he traveled with a group of peers. This is very insular, and some may say, well that’s a sign of missing being a kid. Actually, it kept him protected from middle school drama. He stayed younger longer than would have been typical because I was close by 24/7. I saw all that was going on in his life.
This poor dad sitting at the audition next to me lamented about whether or not he was actually on board with this stuff. His son was adorable with a capital a. I told him about the snowball effect and how it may start small and then become an all encompassing part of his son’s and ultimately family’s life. I wasn’t trying to scare him, but to explain to him how it works.
My kids are kids! They aren’t prodigies or mini adults 24/7, or even like those annoying kids who can only interact with adults and converse about adult topics. They are well balanced kiddos who can turn off their child like behaviors when necessary to audition or sit backstage. I’m not sure how performing is really any different than playing sports at a high level or being fully committed to playing an instrument. It just seems us stage parents take the brunt of the criticism from folks who really just don’t know how this all works.