How to Support your Child’s Passion for Performing Without Becoming an Obnoxious Stage Mom

“I will never be a stage mom like that,” I swore.  It was 1991, in San Diego, California. I was younger. Newer. Blonder.

My roommate, Miss Indiana was on the phone with her mother, who was demanding to know what her daughter was eating. She was chewing on her usual snack. Ice chips. Minutes later, her mother was knocking at our hotel room door. Then she inspecting the room to make sure there was no hidden candy.  “Finals are in two days,” she said. And her daughter “could not afford to balloon.”

I saw the look on my new friend’s face. I could feel what her mother’s comments did to her. I knew how she struggled with an eating disorder and (fair or not) I held her mother responsible for her pain.

No crown, no role at stake can justify telling your child that their value in this world (or worse, to you) is dependent on their appearance or performance.

Playing Toto

Playing Toto

My girls have been performing for the past few years (not in pageants). I have resisted being a stage mom in any way, mostly because all of the stage moms I’ve met (and there have been many) have utterly disgusted me. I’ve never met one that I respected.

I don’t push my girls. I support them as best I can, but I don’t drill them on their lines or make them practice a song over and over until it’s perfect.  I admit, this may have put them at a disadvantage, but my revulsion to stage moms runs deep.

For my 10 year-old in particular, performing has always been about having a good time.  I’ve been afraid that pushing and harassing would take all the fun out of it. Plus, if she wants something bad enough, I know she will take the initiative and practice.

Something changed recently and my little woman will be auditioning for a role that will require a lot more work, if she gets it (feel my nervousness?). It will require me to step up and drill her daily on lines…which I can do.


Playing Snoopy

The problem is, once I unleash the competitive stage mom within, I start feeling less and less like the peaceful mom I strive to be. I start worrying about the audition, her hair, her clothes. I start wondering if I need to teach her how to psych out the competition or how to be a fierce competitor from the moment she walk through the door.

I won’t, I promise.

My girl isn’t like that anyway. She wasn’t even going to audition for the part because she was afraid that if she got it, all of the other girls wouldn’t want to be her friend anymore. She values her friends more than the glory, sweet child.

So how do I do this? How do I support her and prepare her with out getting out of control?

Yoga? Deep breathing? Yes, but I do that anyway.

Here’s my plan:

Daily practice, but not with a focus on perfection. Instead we’ll focus on having fun with the role she is learning.  I decided we’ll make this about making a commitment to giving 100 %, seeing what hard work will bring and how it will feel to give her all, whether or not she gets the part.

And now for my moment of truth…

I was hoping that writing about this would ease the knot in my stomach, that I could talk myself out of the urge to go Tiger Mom crazy.  It has not. I actually had a nightmare about a month ago that I was in a show, standing on stage and not only did I forget my lines, but I couldn’t recall what play we were doing. All I could think was how disappointed the director (my daughter’s director!) was going to be in my performance. I worry about these things. They mean a ton to my girls and like any other parent I want them to succeed, not for me, but because it makes them happy.

If one of my girls gets an audition for Mama Mia, then I’ll want them to succeed for my sake. Abba music 24/7? Hell yes!

Anyway, I know the disappointment that comes with not getting the part you want, blowing an audition,  or as in my most memorable loss – of being on national TV and watching the girl next to you get the crown while you force a smile. In that moment, I clapped lightly and thought had I been the vicious competitor I claimed to be, I would have had that southern belle disqualified when I caught her breaking the rules! The winner was not my roommate, for the record.

I got over it. I guess vicious competitor is not my true nature, so I should be able to resist stage mother insanity.

I’m determined to find a middle ground, even if I am sick to my stomach for the duration.

  • Melanie Chisnall

    My mom was amazing when I was younger. I did plenty ballet and modern dance concerts and she was so supportive. She sort of took a back seat so to speak, never interfered, but was always there come performance night. She’d help me gel my bun or fix my outfit. One time my parents took me out for ice cream after a ballet concert at 11pm at night – make-up and all. I will never forget that. I think it’s awesome what you’re doing and that you’re making it all about fun. Believe me, they’ll remember it forever. 🙂

  • Karen Terry

    This I not only love but can relate to so much. Keilee is her own worse critic. I never have to stay on her to practice because she just does. I do run lines if she asks me and offer suggestions but good Lord some of the Moms I have seen. You are such a great Mom Amy. I hope your girl gets the role that is perfect for her. 🙂

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