6 Feb 2018

As I have mentioned on the blog more than once, one of my fears when it comes to my seven-year-old Sofia is that she ends up an underachiever like me. And yes, I hear all of the parents who want to push the “happiness over anything else” agenda, and I respect the nobility of it, I do, but here’s the thing that doesn’t leave my brain: WILL she be happy knowing that she has left no imprint behind her, no story to tell? This, of course, is the hilarious mindf-ck of parenthood – that you will never know whether your parenting choices have been “right” until much later, when the kid is no longer a kid – therefore all I have to go on is my own insecurities, my own feelings and my own dilemmas. And I can tell you that life feels more than a little bit unfulfilled when professional pursuits don’t amount to much. More than that, life feels wrong when you don’t earn your own money, and, obviously, earning “good” money – which is relative, I know – opens up beautiful things that make living more enjoyable. I don’t necessarily mean material stuff, my argument is more along the lines of travel, comfort, a home, supporting your children should you have any. And while love and kindness don’t cost a thing, a day in Disney Land does, as does getting there.

So I want to push Sofia, gently, into the direction that, at this point, looks less resistant for her. And, definitely yes, that is most appealing for me. Which is anything artistic. I will say that, so far, at school Sofia excels at almost everything but while she is in love with Maths, she is no less in love with drama and singing. I would like to pride myself on not suffering from the severe case of parental blindness, however, I am checking myself, hard as it is to do, that I will never be fully unbiased, not least because I see what my child is capable of doing in private, when she is feeling her safest and most confident. This, as both of us have learned the hard way (not really), does not automatically transfer into the public arena.

What had happened was that I’d applied for Sofia to join an acting agency. She had been doing two drama lessons a week and a singing one for a few years, I figured it was time. I now see I was a little bit off with the timing and should have applied a couple of years ago when Baby was at her least shy. Yes, unlike the shyness trajectory of most, Sofia’s seems go in the opposite direction: she would have no reservation or qualms about the presence of strangers when she was little but the older she becomes the more aware she is of her surroundings and, ugh, of appearing “silly”. I hate it. I hate it in the double digits because she reminds me of me: capable but unsure. Unlike me, however, she has two parents who constantly tell her that “she can”.

Anyhow, the preparations for the audition were as serious as I could have made them: the 1-min long monologue learned quickly and easily, the number of times it was rehearsed – endless. But of course, this was all done in the safety of our four walls, as soon as Sofia tried to perform in front of her drama teacher it was as if a random child replaced my child. NOTHING sounded the way it sounded at home. It was complete sh-t. I know some people sugarcoat it for their children to avoid emotional trauma, I, duh, prefer honesty. Though my honesty is always followed by encouragement, I am very strict with myself about it. What I then did was I promised (and followed through) that I would pay Sofia 2 pounds for every time she practiced her monologue in front of strangers. After an initial shock slash refusal, she couldn’t say no to the money (good).

Long story short, after a few days of performing in front of a few teachers, neighbours, other kids, she still failed the audition and did not get a place in the agency. As soon as she told me she was given the option of either doing the reading in the centre of the room or from her original place in line and she chose the latter – there was no fooling myself that the result would be positive. Was I angry? Yes. Not for not getting in but for the shyness, the work that she had put in only to foolishly undo it, the lack of confidence that she had learned I don’t even know from whom or from where. When has it become such a challenge to convince a girl that she is excellent and that the work she puts into anything should be shown? – my child remains increasingly concerned with what people will think. I hate every bit of this worry and wish I knew how to relieve her of it.