By Lisa Milbrand
February 27, 2014

My daughter's first words should have been "show tunes." And ever since she was a baby, she's been hurtling, single-mindedly, toward a career in the performing arts. There's lots of dancing and singing daily in my house (as I write this, my daughter is downstairs racking up big-time scores in Just Dance 2014), and we have a cavalcade of stretchy satin-and-sequin ensembles from her numerous recital triumphs. She has the skills and talent to make a career in the arts a possibility, as those much less biased and more practiced in assessing these things have pointed out.

And like most parents, I want to see her live out her dreams. But I'm not quite ready yet. Even though we live a stone's throw from Broadway (which is currently host to several shows chock full of plum parts for kids) and all of the TV and commercial opportunities in New York, we haven't let her audition professionally. The way we see it, she has her whole adult life to be working—and right now, we want to see her spend her childhood being a child. We want her to have time to play with her sister and go sledding on a snow day, to spend her afternoon caught up in a good book rather than frantically memorizing a script. We're investing in dance classes and acting classes and letting her audition for community productions, where the time commitment won't interfere with schoolwork and her social life.

It's not a popular opinion. My daughter has been campaigning to audition for a while, like several of her friends who harbor the same dream. And at times, I worry that we're holding her back—that she'll be less prepared than all these vets when we finally agree to let her go and do her thing. But nightmares of raising a La Lohan, and the knowledge that several of my friends have successful Broadway careers without sacrificing their childhoods, have kept me from giving in. On top of that, my husband and I have our own careers to keep afloat (especially if we want to pay for all these lessons and keep her in dance shoes). And our younger daughter, whose future ambitions haven't solidified as quickly as her big sister's, doesn't deserve to spend her weekends tagging along to auditions.

But in the past two years, my daughter's focused has shifted slightly—from Broadway to ballet. She pirouettes around the house and dreams of her first set of pointe shoes. She has the look of a ballerina, long and lithe and graceful, and she's been moved up into a ballet program in her school for students much older than her. But a ballet career has a very short shelf life, and there's no way we can wait until she's 16 or 18 to let her start. She needs to be training hard, right now. And so, we're letting her go.

This weekend, she has her first Serious Audition, for a top ballet company's summer intensive program. If my daughter succeeds, she'll spend most of her summer days twirling around a dance studio for hours on end. And this fall, we'll be shuttling her back and forth from the ballet studio, for the hours and hours of practice the intensive program requires. I'm not sure if I'm more nervous that she won't get in—or about what will happen if she does.

Tell us: Would you let your child start a professional career? Why or why not?

Image: Pointe shoes by Stolbov Pavel/


Be the first to comment!