The Painful Truth
"Am I a good singer? Really, Mom. Tell me the truth."
Ever since my daughter Angel, at age 3, announced she wanted to be a singer when she grew up, I'd successfully skirted the question. Whenever it came up, I'd just smile and give her a hug. "Mmmmm," I'd mumble non-committally. Or I'd simply change the subject ("Look, something shiny!") But now at age 8 1/2, she was on to me and wanted the straight scoop.
How do you tell your child that they're not great at something? From the moment they're born, we're programmed to
lie stretch the truth about how fabulous our children are. "That's the most beautiful picture I've ever seen!" we cry as they show us their first scribbles. "That's fantastic!" we crow over some bizarre tumbling move they just invented. "I'll wear it all the time," we solemnly swear about some funny-looking pipe cleaner pin they made us in school.
I could have gone on simply avoiding the question or "stretching the truth," about Angel's singing. But lately whenever the question came up, my mind would flash-forward 10 years and imagine a devastated Angel, afer humiliating herself at the American Idol auditions, looking direcly into the camera, tears streaming down her face, and bawling, "I don't understand it...my mother always said I was a great singer!"
I decided it was time to face the music and let her in on the truth. As I looked into her beautiful, earnest face, I mustered up my courage and my powers of PR spin and said,
"Sweetie, you have lots of talents. You are a talented writer. You're a talented soccer player. I just don't know that singing is your best talent."
She thoughtfully considered this and quickly came to terms, "I'm also a great actress!" she said with her usual dramatic flair. "I'm going to be an ACTRESS when I grow up!"
Good thing for me Angel has no shortage of confidence.