When the truth is hard: image of a sad teenage girl.

The Day I Hurt My Child (AKA: When the Truth Is Hard)

Did I do the right thing, say the right thing, when in high school you asked:

“Mom, do you think I’ll make it on Broadway?”

Thing is, I hate to lie.

That afternoon, I moved away from the kitchen table to lean against the counter.

“Here’s the way I see it, baby.” I counted on my fingers. “You’re gorgeous. That’s a plus. You’ve got a terrific singing voice and it’s trained. That’ll be in your favor also. With all the leads and supporting roles you’ve had, we know you can act. Now . . .”

Your happy eyes disappeared.

“’What? What don’t I have?”

I rubbed a spot on the stove top. “You haven’t taken a dance class since you were three, sweetie. That could be a problem.”

“I danced when I was three?”

When the truth is hard: image of her as a toddler in a ballet costume.

“Yeah, you took ‘Baby Ballet.’ At the recital you wore a light blue tutu with purple sequins and your song was about rainbows. You know the one. ‘Why are there so many…songs about rainbows? And what’s on the other side?’”

Your lashes were wet. “I don’t remember.”

“When it was your group’s turn, you cried on stage for the first two minutes. Then someone laughed. You took it as encouragement and proceeded to steal the show. Do you seriously not remember this?”

Your left eye crinkled as you crossed your arms.

I went on to explain how I’m no pushy stage-mom. Your dad’s not an aggressive stage-dad.

Those kind of people enroll their kids in voice, acting, and dance lessons at the age of four.  We waited until you asked for them.

And eventually you did. First you asked for singing lessons. Then you found an acting teacher. You never did ask for dance lessons though.

No photographer was ever hired for headshots. You never auditioned for a commercial, though my friend with a furniture store featured you and your sister in one of her commercials.

We wanted you to take the initiative, not us.

“I’m pretty sure that’s the kind of girl you’ll be up against—someone uber-trained in all three disciplines with mega-ambitious parents.”

I watched your hands curl into fists.

“I’ll show you.” Your voice was gritty. “Michael Jordan’s high school basketball coach said he’d never amount to anything either. I’ll show you.”

After you bolted out of the kitchen through the foyer up the stairs and into your bedroom with a ferocious door slam, I regretted my inability to lie.

“Prove me wrong, sweetie,” I said in the direction of your Ikea day-bed. “Please, prove me wrong. Nothing would make me happier.”

A year or two later you fell out of love with the stage.

“The women are divas,” you informed us. “The directors are mean. If performing the same show sixteen times in a row bores me now, what will it be like to do the same show for years?”

By then, you’d decided you wanted to make a difference in the world. You still do. I’m so glad. And so proud.

When the truth is hard: Image of our family at her graduation.

Every so often I think back to the day when what I thought to be true collided with your dream. While I am not a proponent of the every-child-gets-a-trophy movement, I probably could have done better that day.

My daughter disagrees. “Always tell me the truth, Mom. The thing is, you’re almost always right.”


What about you? Do you always tell the truth or do you sometimes carefully navigate around it so as not to cause pain?

And, if you’ve got another minute or two, I recently came across this beautiful post on parenting: “Dear Kids, When I fail…” It’s not brand-new but if you haven’t read it, it’s definitely worth your time.

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