Sunday, June 26, 2011

Silence might just be the new voice of parenting

Zombified, Ittybit sat staring at the T.V. watching a pint-sized prodigy perform a song from Phantom of The Opera.

The little girl, Jackie Evancho, is tiny but her voice is bigger than life.

"I want to be like that girl," she said emphatically. "I want to be famous."

It wasn't for art's sake that Ittybit wanted to make her voice lift above the songs she hears on popular radio stations. Although the beauty of the music drew her in, it was the sight of a pretty little girl in a floor-length dress that held her imagination hostage. "She's only a kid ... and she's on TeeeeVeeee!"

"You don't want to be that girl," I say immediately and without thinking. Just as quickly I want to kick myself for saying it that way.

Of course she wants to be just like that little girl. She wants to flesh out the mental picture we all have about fame. How special it would be. How good it would feel to be adored by strangers. How happy it would make you.

It's easy to find fault with the logic, but more difficult to dismiss the emotion behind it. Don't we all have some degree of desire for acknowledgement and adoration? Only we want the well-deserved kind of fame that wipes its feet when we invite it in, doesn't snoop in our drawers when it uses our facilities, and never wears out its welcome.

"No. I do want to be like her. I want to sing on a stage in front of lots of people. Or I want to publish a book. Or I want to act in the movies. I definitely want to be on TV."

I try a different approach.

"Well, I wouldn't want to be that girl. I was listening to an interview with her and she seemed extremely anxious for a little girl. She was worried about what would happen to her career when she became an adult. Would she be able to keep the momentum? Would her voice change? Would it be as pretty when it did?

“I just think that's a lot of worry for a little girl to handle."

Ittybit shrugs her shoulders. She doesn't share my concern. Time is fleeting. Even at her age she understands the importance of youth. The gun has fired and the stopwatch has started. The time to make your mark, she thinks, is now.

"She's already 11. Maybe that would be a problem if she were not yet 10," she explains as if she's already decided it's all over once you reach the chronological double digits.

Maybe I should have mentioned the hours of practice, the stress of performing for a crowd night after night after night and the lack of time to just play.

But that just takes the stance that hard work ise something to be avoided at all cost. And the idea that childhood is supposed to be carefree and easy, is just another lie we tell ourselves.

I just smile and let her dream alone.

What does her old mother know about fame and what it's like, anyway?

Maybe the best thing I can do is nothing at all. Don't help. Don't hinder.

We all have our dreams and anxieties no matter where we go or what we do. We all swim against tides. We walk down roads others travel and they're always new to us. The only thing I can really advise her to do is to follow what makes her happy until it makes her miserable. Then maybe she'll be ready to forge her own path.

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