My youngest daughter set off on her very first college audition for theater BFA programs this past weekend. As the trip was some 2,500 miles from our home, I accompanied her.
Not unlike a major sporting event (think playoffs or Olympic qualifications), the audition process is one that is filled with all of the excitement and anxiety that one would expect. Depending on the program, admittance rates are lower than those of Harvard or Stanford; and, this weekend her audition is at the Harvard of musical theater.
And, cue the vomiting feeling at the pit of my stomach.
Yes, my stomach. The college process is stressful for kids and the adults who love them. When the audition process is added to it, it's like pouring gasoline on an already blazing fire.
That said, I try hard to be someone who practices what I preach, avoiding helicopter parenting and remembering that this is her college process, not mine. So, heading into the weekend I reminded myself of four important points so as to tamp down my inner-stage mom and not to drive her nuts:
I know just enough to be dangerous...so I need to be careful not to say a word. This is my third child to go through this college audition process (given I cannot hold a tune if I carried it in a bucket, how I birthed this remarkable group of singer/actors is beyond me). Despite my lack of personal participation in musical theater, I've certainly sat through enough productions, voice and acting lessons and have close friendships with several of the teachers my children have worked with through the years. I've heard the corrections and feedback that these fabulous professionals have given my child, so it cannot hurt to reinforce it right? WRONG. My job is mom, not coach. At this point, as she heads into the actual audition, she's had all the coaching she needs. She knows when to breathe, how to shape her mouth and to be sure to say her final vowel sounds. It's her turn to show it off.
My job is to make sure she sleeps, eats, hydrates, gets to the audition on time and that all fees are paid. The rest of it is up to her. Her clothing, her music, her head shots and even how much she practices before the audition are her responsibilities. Yes, I can iron her outfit, if she wants me to. I can make a suggestion as to which outfit she chooses to wear, if she asks my advice. But at this point, she is in the driver's seat. My job is to be the parent and do nothing to contribute to the stress of an already stressful day.
The post-mortem (if there is one) is lead by her. When she finishes my job is to give her a hug and ask her if she needs anything before we leave campus. It's not to say "How did it go?" She will tell me what she wants to tell me. I will listen and tell her that I am proud of her for what she did today, because I am. If they accept her or not, she did something very brave: she put her creative soul on the line, standing before a group of adults who are strangers and telling them her dreams. Am I dying to know every last deal? You betcha I am. But it's her story to tell if and when she chooses to tell it.
Enjoy this time with her and help her have fun. One way or another, be it this school or another, my baby girl will be out of my nest next fall. I am going to savor this one-on-one time with her. We took in a walk around this city that she has never visited before and went to an art museum. We watched too much TV. We worked out together. We had a leisurely breakfast where we were waited on by a man who has build his entire house out of junk (he showed us pictures to prove it) and learned of his story (which was fascinating). It was a trip neither of us will ever forget.
I could go on with other reflections from this trip, but I am stopping at four because that is my daughter's lucky number, and like most things in life, a little luck is nice to have!
So break a leg, Mataya and all the kids who are going through this audition process. Remember this: you are enough.
And parents, your child's college admission results are not a referendum on your parenting. So let go of the pressure to run the parenting rat race whose ultimate prize is admission to a prestigious college. That said, it is entirely normal to have wild emotions over this process. Breathe and recall the stress of things like toilet training and biting problems. I suspect that your child is both toilet trained and no longer bites. Much like those stressful stages, this one too shall pass. Hang in there!