Please deny your children their dreams.
The child stars you keep complaining about? The ones who go off the rails? That happens because a parent, with stars in their eyes and dreams of fame and living vicariously, decides it’s all right to let the child pursue acting, or dance, or whatnot – and that way madness lies.
I hear you though -- “But she just LOVES to sing and dance! How can I get in her way? How can I prevent her from doing what she LOVES?” I’m not saying you have to lock her in the basement. Let her sing! Let her dance! But why does she have to be an employed professional? Most of the people – good or not – who try out for American Idol are adult, or close to it. Their passions, which I’m sure they had since they were kids, are still alive. Why do you have to drive your kid’s for her?
Let’s say your child wants to be in showbiz and you say yes – what if she doesn’t get hired? What if it’s a long slog of no work and his self esteem gets bruised? Or what if she does get hired, and then all your time and energy goes into taking care of her career? How will your other kids feel? How will you feel, now that you’re just a chauffeur? What if your kid works once, one show or commercial, and then never gets a day of work again? All washed up? That? What if you have to move across the country for him to get work? Is that going to affect your family? How many parents of child stars are divorced? Take a good guess…
Lest you think I’m a hypocrite – yes, I’ve worked with child actors. Key word being actors. They are not stars. Every last one of them would tell you that Canada is different. You can still grow up here and make mistakes and be a normal teenager. There isn’t paparazzi. And none of them have their faces on bedsheets and mugs and toothbrushes.
And no, I’ve never been a parent- but I’ve been a kid. And I had Dreams. And you know what my parents said? ‘Absolutely not. You can try when you’re an adult, if you want to.’ My passion was real. My talent was not. So I never became an actor. Instead I discovered my love of being in charge and bossing people around, which you can do quite well as a writer. Or Producer. Or Director. Or anything where you aren’t Famous. But I know that fame hunger eats away at people…
There comes a level of fame where it’s Just. Too. Much. And it’s a lot closer to the beginning than I think parents think. No wonder the kids can’t handle it. No wonder they’re acting out – in completely normal ways, by the way – and freaking out parents across the nation.
But OK, you say to me – my kid isn’t going to be a ‘child star’, she’s going to be a serious actor. Look at Natalie Portman! She was a child actor, and now she’s an adult actor! Yay!
To which I say: Annette Bening. Julia Roberts. Penelope Cruz. Nicole Kidman. Julianna Marguelies. Alison Janney. Salma Hayek. Tina Fey. The list goes on. You can be successful as an adult even if you haven’t been as a kid. If your kid has a passion for acting at 12? Great. Chances are she’ll still have that passion at 22, and she can pursue it, after you’ve spent her childhood teaching her to be a good, smart, savvy kid who can take care of herself in the professional world. I promise you she will not suffer for not having worked for 10 years already.
And of course there are exceptions to what I’m saying. I know a few of them personally. But so much depends. On who the family is, on when the fame hit, on what’s expected of the child at home. But we’ve seen the ‘child star has too much ‘ story play out waaay too many times for it to be a coincidence. The exceptions, of whom I’m very, very proud of, prove the rule.
So what about hockey moms and dads, Duana? What about them?
Look, I know less about the hockey and other pro-sports worlds. I do know there can be an immense amount of pressure. But the difference is, at the very least, that you can’t go pro until you are (nominally) an adult. Who’s the youngest, most successful hockey star ever? Gretzky? Crosby? They can’t begin to have the same amount of wealth and pressure that Mary Kate and Ashley did. Those two had how many employees by the age of six?
And while I’m at it?
Please, please stop making TV actors your role models for your children. It is bullsh-t. I hear it so much. “I used to think that Hannah was a good role model but now she isn’t!” You’ve forgotten the natural progression of things, i.e. – people grow up. Teenagers do things the world cannot like or understand.
Explain to your children the difference between characters and actors. I know they can figure it out. Explain that entertainers are fun, but they’re not who we look up to and want to be like. That’s saved for (insert role model of your choice, but I highly recommend it’s not someone who’s famous). Explain to your kids that celebrities are Just. Like. Us. So sometimes they make bad choices and do bad things and that’s okay because nobody’s perfect.
Remind your kids that people are on TV because someone liked them, and made the choice that the rest of us would also like them. That it doesn’t mean they’re the best, overall, at everything. It just means they got chosen once, and that could all change. Way too quickly.
Again, I don’t have kids. Maybe I’ll be running out to open calls and talent searches if one day I do. But I would be very very surprised.
And you can yell at me if I do."