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The Confidence of Youth

Confidence-PostersDefinition of CONFIDENCE (noun): 1. full trust  2. self-reliance, assurance or boldness

Look at the children around you.  Especially the young ones.  So often they are just bursting with confidence.  You see it in how they swagger, with their heads held up high.  You hear it in their voices, for their words carry little doubt in terms of what they feel they will accomplish.  You feel it in their dreams and plans for the future.  Kids talk of being professional athletes, famous actors, inventors, leaders, etc.  They dream big dreams, with all the belief that if they want it, it will come true. So what happens along the way?

On Friday, my son auditioned for his second musical production at our local theatre.  Two days later, the call back list was posted on their website.  I held my breath as I waited for the page to load.  They are quick to say being asked to the call backs does not mean you will be cast in the production.  Likewise you can earn a part in the play and NOT have been asked to call backs.  Call backs are a chance for the director and production team to see you again, to figure out if there is a spot for you, to see how a group of kids looks together and are they are all the right fit.

My son had been asked to call backs last time.  And I think 99 percent of the kids cast in that production were the ones on that call back list.  But as I looked down this call back list, his name was not on it.  I called him over and thought it best for him to read the list himself.  I watched as he scrolled down, perhaps not getting it was in alphabetical order and that his name wasn’t there.  Then he scrolled back up again, putting his finger on the screen and touching each name as he searched for his.  “That’s funny,” he finally said.  “I don’t see my name here.”

Ah yes, the confidence of youth.  The expectation that of course his name would be there.  He had made it in the last time – that must show he had some talent.  He felt he had a really good audition.  Even though this play is one where there are no spoken lines (it is all singing and dancing – and the latter especially is not his strong point) he was still confident he would be offered a part – some part…any part.

I watched his face as it hit him that his name was really not on the list.  Would I be anything less than a typical mother if I didn’t confess that I felt more than a bit of heartbreak.  So this Zen Mama Wannabe started saying all those things that you say in a situation like this to make someone feel better.  About how hard it is to get cast in these productions.  That what was important was that he felt like he had done his best.  How remember that only half the kids that tried out last time made it.  How it is nothing personal, but maybe it wasn’t the right fit for his talents, etc.

And when he tried to tell me he STILL could make it in the cast, after all this was just the call back list, I stepped up my rhetoric even more.  Call it going into protective mode, but somehow I felt it necessary to prepare him for the eventual outcome – a final cast list which it did not seem likely he was on.

He listened to me go on and on for a while and then simply said:

I can’t believe my own mother is being so doubtful.

How do we get there, I wonder – from confident to doubtful?   Does it take years, scattered with disappointments, so that out of self-preservation we get to a place where we have to hedge our bets?  Do we get to the place where we tell ourselves that it is okay if we don’t get that which we want, because we tried hard and did our best, and that is what matters?  But is that ALL that matters??

Perhaps my speech was okay in content, but wrong in its timing.  (And don’t they say timing is everything?!)  Maybe it would have been more appropriate after we saw the FINAL cast list.  I realize now I was hurting (as I watched him intently search for his name) and made the assumption he was feeling the same.  But that wasn’t where he was at.  He still had (and has) the self-assurance that his name will be on that final list.  Maybe they didn’t need him at call backs because they are going to just stick him in the ensemble.  That is okay with my guy, “cuz then maybe I won’t have to dance as much.” But maybe they didn’t call him back because they already know just the part for him – a good part, because after all, why dream small when you can dream big, right?

I want to take him and hug him so long and so hard that his arms start to fall asleep.  I love that boldness, that confidence in himself.  That is exactly what he needed from his mom.  Instead he got the voice of doubt and insecurity, hidden under of veil of protection as I tried to manage expectations – but whose I wonder…his or mine?

A child’s confidence is such a beautiful thing.  It should be revered and treasured.  There are more than enough red marks and disappointments in the world as it is.  Do we, as the caretakers of these little souls, really need to be part of that?  Maybe a little swagger and boldness could help us all.

(Yes, my story ends here.  Whether or not we find his name on that final cast list is irrelevant at this point.  His belief in himself is what matters; I see that now.  I hope he’s right – in thinking he made that final cut – but either way, he is a superstar in my book!)

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9 Responses to “The Confidence of Youth”

  1. callieandbatido Says:
    January 11th, 2010 at 1:09 pm

    Bravo to your son! It took me a while to learn that my effort to prepare my daughters for some foresable let down only led to frustration at ME. “I can’t believe my own mother is being so doubtful.” We’ve all been there!

    I was shocked the first 6-7 years I lovingly tried to help prepare them for some disappointment thinking that if they were even a little prepard, it would hurt less. Instead, I introduced doubt and the idea that I didn’t think they could do or get whatever they were striving for… Now I try to stay on their bandwagon right until the end and am there to celebrate their sucesses and to appear just as shocked as they are when things don’t work out as they had hoped. What a ride it is.

    Easier said than done….

  2. Zen Mama Wannabe Says:
    January 11th, 2010 at 1:15 pm

    CallieandBatido, you really summed it up…we want to “prepare them for disappointment” so that it hopefully will hurt less. And yes, then WE are the ones introducing that doubt.

    Bravo to YOU for figuring it out! I think your idea of staying on their bandwagon right up until the end is the way to do it. Certainly my new plan after this whole experience! We’ll see how we do.

  3. Tara Says:
    January 11th, 2010 at 7:40 pm

    Congratulations!!! Frankie tried out as well and also didn’t receive a callback but we held out hope thinking his name would appear on the final list. Alas, I checked and it’s not there (better luck next time eh?) but I had to smile when I saw your son on the final list! I saw the last production and he was great so I’m not surprised! Best of luck! 🙂

  4. Zen Mama Wannabe Says:
    January 11th, 2010 at 8:49 pm

    I so appreciate your kind words, Tara, especially in light of your son’s disappointment (which I’m sorry to hear). It is such an agonizing process, isn’t it?….for the PARENTS as well as the kids. Playing the waiting game this time around certainly has taught ME a lot. I hope your son goes for it the next time – we’ll certainly be rooting for him!

  5. Charlotte Says:
    March 17th, 2010 at 3:09 am

    Hello! I want to say thanks for an interesting site about a subject I have had an interest in for a long time now. I have been lurking and reading the posts avidly so just wanted to express my thanks for providing me with some very good reading material. I look forward to more, and taking a more active part in the discussions here.

  6. Zen Mama Wannabe Says:
    March 20th, 2010 at 7:19 pm

    Thanks, Charlotte. Lurkers are always welcome – though I do appreciate the comments as well! Thanks for reading — look forward to hearing from you again!

  7. Megan T Says:
    May 6th, 2010 at 2:03 am

    Auntie Zen Mama Wannabe–I’m taking a study break (four finals down, one to go!) and I stumbled upon this whole site. I had no idea you wrote all of this, I’ve read a bunch already and they’re so good =] I especially liked this topic, it’s something I’ve thought about before. I’m glad my cousin is still confident and kicking butt in theatre!

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