3: a trial performance to appraise an entertainer's merits
I am nearing the two year anniversary of this blog. On the day of my very first post, A auditioned for Nashville Ballet’s Nutcracker for the first time. Today I sat with her as she prepared for her third audition for this production.
As we drove to the store this morning, I asked A is she was as nervous as last year before the audition. With the logic – and memory – of a ten year old, she said, “How nervous was I last year?” I laughingly replied that I wasn’t exactly sure how nervous she was last year, but that I didn’t feel as nervous this year as in years past. This is partly because we’ve been through this twice before with good results, but also because I feel ready for either outcome.
I know what awaits us if an acceptance letter arrives in two and a half weeks: tons of rehearsals, the commitment of a good chunk of our fall and a great experience for A. And if the letter says not this year? I feel fairly prepared for that as well. A is in a fall production of The Little Engine that Could and we have a pretty full fall already. I wouldn’t be sad to not spend hours driving her back and forth to Nutcracker rehearsals on top of her regular ballet classes. A part of me would quite honestly be relieved to not add this commitment to our family calendar. And A is in a fairly resilient spot, I believe. She was telling a friend today that she remembers a friend who wasn’t selected for The Nutcracker and gave up dance altogether. I don’t believe A would do that. Dance seems to be too much a part of her for one disappointment to derail her. And as hard as it is to say it, she will receive her first rejection sooner or later. Perhaps it would be easier to learn how to keep trying now rather than wait for that experience a decade down the road.
One feeling I remember from last year and the year prior at audition time was “How do I parent her through this if she doesn’t get in?” It was encouraging to realize today that I feel ready for that parenting challenge. I don’t long for her to fail, but I know it will happen eventually. I think one reason auditioning for The Nutcracker has been a big deal for our family is that it heralded a shift in our season of parenting. Before this, we were able to more or less control the level of rejection our children experience. This process is welcomes us to the real world of parenting, where your child is accepted on the basis of her talent and work ethic, along with some other factors beyond her control (is she the right height for the role?). This is how life will work. Some people like us, some people don’t. Sometimes we succeed, sometimes we fail. These are hard lessons, but I believe shielding A – or any of my daughters – from these things will only hurt them in the long run. Because they need to learn through experience that life will go on after failure just like it goes on after success. They need to see for themselves that J and I will still love them no matter what their level of achievement. They need to experience that they are still the same people – they are still A, B and K – no matter what role they may or may not play on a stage.
So as we wait for another week of auditions to take place, wait for casting decisions to be made and wait for a letter to be written and mailed, I’ll remind myself that the outcome of this casting decision doesn’t change who we are as a family. A will still be my daughter, whether she’s a lamb, a garden fairy, a Russian nesting doll or an audience member. I will still be her mother if she does not fit one of the open slots in this year’s cast. Regardless, we’ll still be people who fall, yet get back up and keep walking towards being who we were made to be.