Saturday, September 8, 2012

Conversations with my daughter: beyond cheerleading

My daughter has an audition on Monday for a local youth orchestra and, not surprisingly, she is nervous.

"You are playing your pieces beautifully," I tell her after a particularly trying practice that ended in hot angry tears.

"No I'm not. I sound terrible." Yes she is looking for reassurance but it is more than that.

"I'm glad to hear you say that. It means that you have high standards and are not easily pleased with yourself. That means you will always be aiming higher, striving to do better."

We talk about writing, and how often the worst writers have the highest opinion of themselves and the best are riddled with self-doubt. I want her to recognise that her doubt is in fact a strength, that rather than crippling her it can be the engine that drives her forward.

"You know if you don't get in you can try again in a few months." I say. "You can figure out where you went wrong, where you need to improve."

It would have been easier to pull out a cliche, to act as my daughter's dutiful cheerleader. But our kids are excellent detectors of parental bullshit, knowing how prone we are to well intentioned hyperbole when it comes to their talents. Indeed, more than once my daughter has met outright praise with "You are just saying that because you are my mum. You have to."

So instead of drowning her in praise I have chosen a different path. Of course I will whisper words of encouragement in her ear on the way to the audition, and I will feel at least as nervous as she does as she starts to play. And if she gets in I will jump around the house like a madwoman until she tells me to stop.

But if she doesn't, I want her to view it as a setback rather than a catastrophe, a challenge to work harder rather than a signal to give up.


  1. Excellent - and so true! Good luck to her. I know just how nerve wracking these auditions can be.

  2. Neither Tiger Mom nor cheerleader - you've found a happy medium. Good on you.

    1. Thank you. That is a nice way of looking at it. Is a tricky business!