Rejection is hard. No one relishes the term “trial by fire”. Especially when you see your child burn up in the flame of rejection. Rejection is part of life. How can we fan the flame of our child’s gifting and passion without burning up in the sadness of the rejection?
At five years old, my daughter jumped up on the stage with no fear belted out in song. On key, in sync with a music track, and in front of strangers at a mall. No training.
At that moment I knew I was in for a journey like no other. Have you ever found yourself on a journey with your children not of your own design? Sometimes I wish I could orchestrate a safe, perfect activity with no disappointment or heartache. But then in reality I would only be doing that for my own ease.
My daughter’s journey in theater and acting began on that stage when she was only five. I hesitate to share about it only because it is a harsh world for a child. They are exposed. Out in the open, giving their all with each and every audition. And the no’s are much more prevalent than the yes’s.
But isn’t that true in life? When we fail, have you ever found yourself two steps forward and one step back? When you stop and think, you are still one step further along than when you started? Daily I seek to find that one step. What does that look like in the big picture?
Why do I share this today?
As we are talking family, I have been sharing that this past week has been particularly challenging. I had to travel back home to help my mom with a health scare. As a mom, life doesn’t stop when you have to go. At home this week, I also got the “thank you -no thank you” email regarding an audition. The one you dread to get as an actor and performer. Each and every time I have my own internal battle, “why do I let her do this? ” – “why does she love this when it is so hard” .
Now at eleven years old, she has been on a four month audition process for a big role with a big theater. She gave up time with friends, other theater parts, travel, and free time to dive in to her craft in preparation. With each callback she sought counsel from experts and mentors in her life, she practiced instead of played, she focused only on this role and sacrificed others for the process. It was her own choice. Believe me when I say, getting this part would mean great sacrifice in schedule, time and logistics for our family. We are on her team – supporting her in this journey.
Now the “no” came four months after we started. She made it to the end, but it still ended in a no. How do we support our children when they suffer disappointment and pain? We have come up with 5 strategies for our family several years ago after we realized just how serious she is about theater. These really serve us well in all aspects of parenting in disappointment.
- Check yourself. As much as I want to scream and yell, this is not about me. This process, this choice, is hers. My emotions and feelings need to be processed with adults. She is my daughter first -not my peer. So I cry a little only because I know she will be sad. I hurt because in the end my baby was rejected. Before I go to her with the news, I get all of this out. This is not her burden to carry. In the end, the rejection does make my schedule easier. Our lives remain the same. So physically is it not a heartbreak. Who can you process your emotions with before you help your child process their emotions? Our process is different.
- Define Your Non-negotiable . We will always check to make sure it is their choice not our own. I have heard many times, “she is a child, how can she know”. Believe me, when you have a single-focused, driven child – you know. Any given moment this could all go away if grades are not kept in place, if respect is lost, if it I have to convince her to do anything. It is not their thing if you have to convince them. No child willingly gives up play time, sleep-overs, and vacations unless they choose to sacrifice for their gifting. How many Olympic parents would say they “chose” that lifestyle for their child. It is not for the faint of heart.
- Acknowledge the suck-factor and move on. Yes, we set limits for grieving. Not emotions- but limits on our emotions stopping our lives in their tracks. This may sound too harsh. However, remember we are in the theater/drama arena. Drama is her gifting. A few years ago, we encountered our first big no. The crying went on for days. We sat down and talked about all the positive things we learned in the process of auditioning. We talked about what it looked like if she quit auditioning. We talked about future auditions. If you can not deal with the no’s, this is not the activity for you. So for 24 hours we cry, we watch musicals, we eat ice cream, and we make lists of all the great things that happened during the audition. Then we move on to the next one. No missing school, no hiding out, no succumbing to a pit of despair or we end the process.
- Rally your cheering section. We have an amazing amount of supporters that help her practice, pray for her during the process, and generally keep lifting her up with words of encouragement and lots of hugs. We also have those that teach her in her craft honestly. The good, the bad, and the ugly – all the things you hate to see your child go through. However, wouldn’t you want them to be challenged by someone that is invested in their future for the good and not the competition? We have to hear the good with the bad. All followed by many hugs!
- Celebrate the no’s. We throw a party. Each no is one closer to a yes. We are always reminded that we also have seen her have yeses in her life. There have been big parts that someone else has lost out to her. If you truly move forward believing that each part comes or go for a reason you can move forward. We do not always agree. We may feel like questioning. But it is not our department. She has to do her best, the rest in out of her hands. For a parent, the loss of control over decisions when it comes to our kids can be the worst feeling. Life does not stop when we get a no. It just means we are one more no closer to that yes!
I realize that having a child in the performing arts may not be your world. Maybe you think I am crazy for allowing her to pursue this activity. What in our life are we passionate about that we can pursue without limits if we just see the no’s as one step closer to success?
What do we not do because we are afraid to get hurt? Afraid to hear the word “no”?
Assemble your cheering section, celebrate the no’s, acknowledge the suck-factor, set your non-negotiable, and check yourself! You can do it. Parenting is hard no matter what stage or abilities of your child. We want the best. The best comes with hard work and sacrifice. Even if we do not understand their talents, we have a part to play in providing guidance through the bad. I would love to only sign my daughter up for the parts she would be “guaranteed”.
As we navigate this week as a family we will celebrate the health of our family, the lessons learned, and the one more no closer to that yes. Oh and we will have ice cream.