This post originally appeared on DC Metro Moms on May 16, 2009
Whose kid will be the next Adam Lambert in 20 years? (Or Susan Boyle in 40?)
My husband and I “aww”-ed in unison when watching a preschooler at Adam Lambert‘s old community theater ask the American Idol finalist how he got so good at singing and dancing. Lambert, who apparently spent a lot of his childhood at that theater in a bunch of musicals, told the button-cute boy he practiced a lot. I thought both of my son, today, just a smidge younger than the questioner, and of his someday-future, wondering if his extroverted nature and talent for impressions might point to a future on the stage like Adam. What if my son is meant to be an entertainer?
The idea of having my little boy act or pose for hire seems like a huge contradiction; I watch very little TV and, until recently, let my son watch only YogaKids and occasional weekend sports over his dad’s shoulder. So why do I keep thinking I should get him an agent? Maybe it’s because he’s been mugging for the camera since he was 9 months old, and because my neighbor keeps asking “When are you going to get him into commercials?” every time he and his dog walk by and my kid flashes his charmer smile.
I mean, what if my desire to stay under the mainstream radar keeps my little boy from his true calling? Susan Boyle just stayed in her hometown until Britain’s Got Talent gave her a shot at the stage at age 47? Yes, I know my son is only three. Listen, I’m not talking about putting a child in lipstick and dresses on a stage to prance around in some kind of pageant (which some parents somewhere must do, or there wouldn’t be tot pageants). I don’t maintain he’s any better looking than anyone else’s child. I just think that the way he retells stories — including doing himself crying — and the way he accurately mimics all the voices on They Might Be Giants’ No! album point to a real possibility for youngest-ever Oscar winner. That’s all.
I mean, somebody’s got to play children’s roles in poignant, searching art house movies, right?
And to do voices that adults just can’t do in other kind of media? Kindly PBS must have known I’d have a tough week coming up when they sent me home from the blogger event with that Steve Songs DVD, which features the “Sillies,” four girls (aged maybe 8-13?) singing backup. Someone must have given those girls some lessons, have encouraged them to audition, right? They don’t look so messed up yet. They’re even pretty dorky-looking in glasses (I wear glasses too) and doing goofy hand motions (come to think of it, that’s like me, too). Other than the fact that this music video is apparently addictive within 24 hours, this stuff is wholesome, right?
One must be careful not to get sucked in by the vicarious living thing, I realize. I wanted my mom to be a stage mom so that I could become a famous actress. I couldn’t play a pushy role any more than she could, and I wouldn’t want to, but I would like to support whatever gives my son joy and keeps him healthy and happy. I certainly don’t want him to be carted off to Hollywood to dress in black before he even hits puberty (to say nothing of taking the Drew Barrymore road of Pee Wee drug abuse), or to prematurely overvalue — or hell, even know about — the entertainment industry.
When I saw on Facebook that a college friend said she was “proud” of her daughter for getting a role in touring company of a musical, I saw how clearly this is not about me and “pride.” I just really think my son would have a blast in the limelight, even if his wannabe hippie mama has been to the movies all of three times since he was born (and that’s including The Business of Being Born and LunaFest). He might not be the natural talent I imagine, but I would be surprised if he’d didn’t get a huge kick out of performing. So where do you draw the line at taking way too much initiative to seek stuff out and just not getting in your child’s way?
Hilary Meyerson makes a great case for mediocrity in her essay “Endgame” in the current Brain,Child Magazine. Not everyone can be great at any one thing, she notes, so why don’t we all just have fun being average? I don’t plan to put my son in any organized sports before elementary school, and even though I’d like his love of music encouraged by something beyond Music Together classes and CDs, I doubt I’ll put him in any early lessons until he seems obviously ready or until he’s asking for it. Preferably both. But is he going to tell me, “Mommy, I’d like to be on stage?”
Mostly I want him to play outside when it’s nice out and cook and do some crafts and artsy stuff when it’s not. If he doesn’t read for a long time, that’s fine. I’m not pushing ABCs or 123s, but when I hear someone as talented as Adam Lambert credit his early experience in community theater as an important stepping stone to where he is today, I wonder if it might be okay to give some kind of little nudge to at least open a door my son might enjoy walking through.