Of Course My Child Will…..
We meant well, we had his best interest at heart, we planned carefully. These phrases echo as I look back at signs we missed and assumptions we made in conversations with our teenage son. No, I’m not talking about devastating addiction or self-destructive behavior. I’m talking about the of course my child will syndrome that consciously, or unconsciously, grips us as we work and often sacrifice to ensure a shining path for our offspring.
We were both professionals with graduate degrees, had good, if not unlimited, college savings in place and only one child to worry about. Early on I agreed with my Physics major husband that it was best to flame interest in science. It was Space Camp, Marine Biology Camp and so forth as our son chattered about his adventures. When he surprisingly declared that he wanted to work with restoration of animal habitats and major in Wildlife Ecology, that was fine. We’d begun to realize he probably wasn’t a future Nobel Prize candidate and working with the environment was a worthy goal. That’s when we adopted the second parental mantra of, “If he’s doing something that makes him happy”…
Except, what we meant was, As long as he’s doing something we can be proud of when family and friends ask.
“You want to do what? Are you out of your mind? Not while we’re paying for it you’re not.”
This was our true reaction upon discovering that his academic progress in college was definitely not matching what we were paying for his out-of-state tuition. It wasn’t a lack of intellect or even focus – it was a burning passion that had been ignited during freshman orientation. Dance. Dance? Our son?
Tens of thousands of dollars and numerous tense, mostly one-way dialogues later, we finally listened. I mean, stopped the refrains of, “all that money, what will people think?”, and heard what our son and professional dancers who recognized his talent were telling us.
It took months until we truly understood. Late blooming or not, dance was where his ability and desire fused. We were stunned to watch him on-stage, baffled as to why none of us had known this before. We finally took the step of letting go of our plans, of our frustration at money that could have been more wisely spent. We helped him walk away from college and into a non-degree dance program to become not quite a starving artist, but not likely to be a superstar either. He is hardworking and able to strike a set as well as lift a female dancer in a perfectly timed overhead turn. We nod when people in the dance community speak glowingly of his extraordinary sense of commitment and drive.
He’ll chip away at college courses to prepare for work after the inevitably short performing life. Or maybe he won’t and he’ll go behind stage in production instead or teach in a studio. It’s not what we expected, nor would have chosen for him, yet he approaches his career with a zest that many can’t claim. CH
(Okay, now click onto www.bmdc.org and see the dancers on the home page)