by Derra Grey
I picked up my 17-year-old daughter from school like I had done hundreds of times before, but this time, she seemed especially happy.
“Our choir teacher was out today and since I have so much experience, I was asked to conduct the class.” She beamed.
“Wow, that’s really cool,” I said excitedly.
“Yeah, it was the most amazing feeling.” Her eyes sparkled in a way I hadn’t seen in a while.
I began to feel that old familiar exhilaration that had been suppressed far too long. “So, I guess you’ll pursue music in college then.”
“I plan to, as my minor,” she says defensively.
“Hey, better yet, maybe you can perform at some events coming up.” I had felt this new sense of hope, missing all the singing events we used to go to, excited she wanted to get back to her dream of becoming a professional singer.
“Mom, my decision to stop all that signing stuff hasn’t changed.”
My heart sank. It’s been difficult excepting this change in her, seeing how she is a truly talented singer and songwriter. How could she just forget all the performances she’s done? The accolades from her audiences and people in the industry? The awards she’s won? What about the moment when she sang brilliantly The National Anthem for the Lakers in front of what, 19 thousand people and wasn’t even nervous? Of course, there had been a number of false promises, and quite a few disappointments over the years, but that’s to be expected in this industry. Everyone knows you just have to hold on and keep going until that opportunity comes along that can change your life.
Even when I noticed the progressing shift in her, I kept pushing her to stay on course toward her dream. Then my husband asked me one day, “Whose dream is it anyway?”
What? Hers of course.
And then she told me she’s done trying to make it as a singing star and wanted to stop all of it.
So, we stopped going to shows, auditions and the studio. That is until the day I get a call from a producer of American Idol. She had remembered my daughter from last year when she auditioned (even though she didn’t get in). The producer wanted to give my daughter a private audition with the executive producers this year.
Suffice to say, I was ecstatic, but worried she’d want to pass on this opportunity. When I went to tell her about the call, I assured her that this was a chance of a lifetime and it could just be that chance to change everything. Imagine my surprise when she actually agreed to do it, thinking this could be her last try at it, admitting she hoped she’d get cast on the show.
It was thrilling watching her practicing again, getting ready for the big day. On audition day, she went into that room and blew the roof off the place. People in the waiting room said to me, “What? That’s her? She’s incredible.”
The producers told her they’d be calling within a couple of weeks for callbacks and we left. But we knew full well it was the end of the road. She had been on enough of these reality show auditions to know if they don’t ask you to stay, you are done.
When we got in the car she looked at me and said, “I did it, right?”
“Yes! And you did amazing.” My heart was aching. I had so wanted this chance for her; to prove that she belongs on stage. I remembered when she was eight and sang a song she wrote for the very first time on stage at a charity event. How the people in the audience held up their phones to light up the room as she sang, some people even cried. When she came off the stage, after a standing ovation, she looked up at me beaming. “That’s where I belong,” she told me.
“Ok, well, I’m done now.” My daughter looks as sad as I feel.
“You mean like done with just these auditions?”
“No, like all of it. I admit I hoped something would finally happen, but it didn’t, again. I don’t want to feel bad anymore, like I’m not good enough. I mean, I’m glad I tried, we tried, but since I’ve stopped, I’ve been feeling really good about myself and it’s not like I don’t sing anymore, I sing in Choir and I love it. What I need now is to pursue things that make sense to me.”
“I just think you still could make it big if we’d keep going.”
“Mom, please, I know it’s still your dream for me, but it’s not mine anymore.”
“But it was your dream.” I insist.
“Yeah, it was. I did want it, really bad, but I can’t be distracted by it anymore. It isn’t going anywhere and I’ve tried, really tried for years. Now I want other things, things I can actually attain.”
“Some parents see their children as extensions of themselves, rather than as separate people with their own hopes and dreams’’ said Brad Bushman, a professor of psychology at Ohio State University.
I decided to speak to other parents who were going through similar situations with their kids. I was quite surprised at how many parents dreams for their kids weren’t at all what their kids wanted for themselves.
One of the parents, Jim, had been struggling with his son quitting football. Jim, himself, had once dreamed of playing professional football, but he didn’t get the chance. And when he had a son, he brought him up to play and found his son was really good at it. Jim felt fulfilled and happy, especially when his boy was being scouted and getting offers to play professionally.
Then one day his son broke down, worried he’d disappoint his father but managed to tell him he wanted to stop playing football, it just wasn’t what he wanted to do with his life. Jim was beyond devastated and still to this day can hardly speak about it without choking up.
Jim’s son is now in college, pursuing a business degree.
For me, I’ve come to let go of what I wanted for her and embrace the fact that this is my daughter’s life, not mine, and that she has her own dreams.
Of course, I am grateful for the times she does sing. That is, on her own terms.