E is in a local musical theater production called Best of Broadway. After she was selected from the auditions, someone asked me "What if she wants to quit? What if she doesn't feel like going to rehearsal one day? Would you just let her quit?"
This person asked me this, because she has heard me voice my opinion on forcing kids to do things in which they are not interested. So she wondered if E lost interest, what was I going to do?
I told her that, first of all, E and I would be having a discussion about commitments, and we did. I told E what was going to be expected of her, how many days a week she would be rehearsing and I showed her on the calendar how long the rehearsals would last and when the show would take place. I told her that if she wanted to do this, she needed to commit to doing every rehearsal. I explained that the people who direct the show chose people from the auditions who they think will do a good job in their part, and that they are depending on each person to do their part. If people don't show up or don't what they are supposed to do, it could ruin the show or at the very least inconvenience the directors and other actors.
E saw the show last March, so she knew somewhat what to expect the final production would look like. When she saw it last year, she said "I want to do that! I want to be on the stage!" and she waited for 7 months for the auditions for this year's show to roll around. She was excited to do the auditions and be in the play.
She didn't know, however, exactly what the rehearsals would be like. For the first rehearsal, our day worked out in such a way that we had to get there an hour early and the girls spent that time running around and playing. It was 6 pm when the rehearsal started and she was tired. I tried to get her to spend a few minutes taking some deep breaths and getting centered before it started, but she wouldn't. We were all in a small room that echoed every noise and the music was LOUD. She got totally overwhelmed with the noise after already feeling tired and out of sorts. She tried to participate, but we had to leave the room several times for her to pull herself together.
I gave her some Rescue Remedy
and let her leave the room when she needed to, but I also reminded her that this was part of practicing for the final production that she wanted to do. I told her that I didn't think every rehearsal would be like this and that once she got into the swing of things that it would probably be easier.
The next day we were talking about it and I said, "If you don't want to do this, it's ok. But it seems like you want to do this, but you were overwhelmed and tired last night." She agreed that was the case. I said, "Let's come up with some ideas that will make the next rehearsal easier so you don't feel so overwhelmed."
She agreed that just knowing what to expect the next time- the loud music and many people- would be helpful. She was totally surprised by that the first time. We talked about getting centered before the rehearsal started, bringing Rescue Remedy, making sure she ate immediately beforehand, bringing a water bottle, and being well rested.
We have implemented those ideas, and she has now done 5 rehearsals, and she enjoys them. There are times in between songs for her to talk and play with new friends, and they just started adding dance choreography to the singing which she likes. It is hard work, but so far, it is worth it to her. Before the last rehearsal, she asked me if she could skip it because she was a little sick. I reminded her that if she didn't do the rehearsals, she wouldn't be able to be in the play. She said ok, and by the time it was over, she didn't want to leave!
So would I let her quit if she changed her mind? The simple answer is yes! I mean, seriously, all ethics and parenting philosophy aside, how DO you force a child to be in a play? Threaten to spank them if they don't sing? Ground them from doing anything else if they don't smile big enough? How does one justify making a child's life miserable to try to teach them to never quit? To me that just says "My reputation is more important than your happiness" or "I think you're such a lazy worthless bum that you'd never do anything worthwhile if I didn't force you."
Fortunately, there is a lot of distance between forcing a child to do something in which they are not interested, and shrugging your shoulders and letting them quit when they say they don't feel like doing it today. That distance includes:
Not forcing them to start things in which they aren't interested in the first place.
Giving them a clear picture of what will be expected and then leaving the choice up to them.
Explaining what team work means and that there are people depending on them.
Not putting a child who is too young to understand those concepts in that position.
Supporting them by providing the practical things and the emotional help they need to continue.
Ultimately, I want my children to remember that I did everything in my power to support their interests and to encourage them in the things they enjoy even when those things were hard. I also want them to remember that no activity was more important than our relationship, and that I was supportive of them stopping an activity that they felt, for whatever reason, was no longer beneficial to them.
The play is in March, so stay tuned for pictures!