Motherhood, insanity and everyday life.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Unkind Cuts Are The Deepest

It’s no secret that life can be unkind. There are accidents, bullies, disasters, illnesses and worse. And then there is the other kind of unkind. It’s the type that you ask for. You sign up and put your proverbial neck on the line and hope for the best. Sometimes it works out and sometimes it doesn’t. And although it’s a risk and you say that you know it, the crushing disappointment afterwards is sometimes just too much to bear.

This morning I received an e-mail from my son who is already back at college practicing with the university marching band. He said that his “audition” went well and he received lots of compliments. His friend, who last year played tenor drums, had a distinctly different experience. There were five spots on tenor drums and five kids trying out. They told my son’s friend that he didn’t make it...even though he was one of the five. Essentially, they said they’d rather have less tenor drummers than let him be one of the five. Ouch. My son admitted that his friend wasn’t very good, but thought that the decision was too harsh. Apparently this boy was so upset that he abruptly left band camp, slammed his fist into his car windshield and cracked it and drove home several hours. As a mom, I could feel his hurt. The moment I read the e-mail, I wanted to find that boy and hug him, because what else can you do when a kid goes through something like that?

Reading the paper this morning, I saw more unkind cuts on our local major league baseball team. One of the relief pitchers, who, earlier in the season had been referred to as a rock star and had gone on to the All-Star game, had once again lost the game in the final innings last night, most likely losing his coveted role as a closer. And another player on the team, who had been a starter for several seasons, was told that he was being benched in favor of younger players, due to a lingering batting slump. Not surprisingly, the benched player had nothing to say to the media.

There are very few times when I have put myself in such a position. It’s more likely that you’d find me in the stands safely cheering on a team than auditioning or playing or trying out. I’ve generally lived life very safely, perhaps to a fault. The one time I remember truly taking that big fat leap of faith was in high school.

I went to an all-girls’ high school. We didn’t have cheerleaders but we had a pom-pom squad. A really cool, well-choreographed pom-pom squad. The year before I attended that high school, I went with a friend of mine to watch her sister practice with the pom-pom squad. I was enchanted. Here were at least 40 gorgeous girls, many with curlers in their hair for their evening’s date (this was pre-curling iron days, folks!) all in lines going through their kicks and and symmetrical routines. This is what I wanted to do...more than anything. And so when I arrived as a freshman, I patiently waited for pom-pom tryouts. I practiced diligently with a friend. My friend made it. I did not. I was crushed, but not surprised. But what was surprising was what I did the next year. I tried out again...and didn’t make it, again. By the end of high school, I had tried out and not made it four times. Thinking back, I wasn’t very good. But what amazes me is that I kept trying. The happy ending to the story is that by my senior year, I had several friends on the pom-pom squad and they convinced the choreographer that I should be the squad’s music manager that year. And at the end of the year, they let me “suit up” and perform with them in their last appearance. It was a wonderful memory.

I can think of only one other instance in my life where I have had such single-minded determination and that was after my husband and I were married three years and I wanted a baby. Throwing caution and financial advice to the wind, I did everything I could to convince him that we were ready to start a family. And even though our journey into parenthood was very bumpy (another story for another time), I’ve never regretted pushing us into it when I did.

Still, it’s so difficult to sit back and watch our kids and their friends go through devastating ego blows. When our son was applying to colleges, there was one school where he wanted to go more than anywhere else. He even had a glowing recommendation from the head of the program in which he was interested. He, and we, thought it was a lock. He did not get into the school, based on his percussion audition. He was, of course, knocked flat. I haven’t felt that sad, and helpless, in many years. The sadness that hung over our house made it feel like someone died, which made us all realize that nobody did die and we’d all better pick our sad faces off the floor and move on. And as it turns out, he went to a different school, a school he liked even better and he was glad that he didn’t get into that original school.

Life works out that way...sometimes. And sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes, as a parent, you’re at a loss to explain to your kids why s*%t happens to them or their friends. You tell them to take risks, but you’re ill-prepared to deal with their disappointment when the risks don’t equal the reward, or lack thereof. So you look for the teachable moment and hope that words of wisdom will somehow enter into your brain when you need them the most. And when all else fails, give out lots and lots of hugs.


At 8:50 AM , Anonymous Kim said...

I can totally relate. I wanted to be a Highland dancer in high school. I chickened out of the tryouts and always regretted it, until I recently got into a step class at the Y and realized I AM SO UNCOORDINATED. I wouldn't have made it. Oh well.

Great post! Here from Michele's!

At 9:11 AM , Anonymous rampant bicycle said...

Me too! I was a singer and an actress in school, and had the unfortunate habit of somehow always coming in SECOND. It was brutal, being thisclose all the time! So I feel for everyone who has a story like this. :)

I hope your son's happy at his school - I couldn't afford to attend the private school where all my friends were going when we went to university, and was sad about that...but in retrospect, I had a good time and learned a lot at the one where I DID go. (Plus, if I had gone to the private school I'd never have met my husband online... ;))

Hello from Michele's!

At 1:05 PM , Blogger OldOldLady Of The Hills said...

I guess that is all you can do is so unfortunate that life holds many disappoints and rejections of one kind or another...hard to have these kinds of things happen when you are very young, I know...but I guess, in some ways, it prepares you for the future disappointments that one ebcounters as an adult...unless of curse that first time was deeply devistating and leavs a wound...Why does life have to be so hard sometimes?

At 3:18 PM , Anonymous Anne Glamore said...

This is great. I feel like I say "Life isn't fair" 10 times a day but really my kids won't learn that until they experience it first hand.

At 3:28 PM , Blogger srp said...

My daughter didn't get into her dream school either. She spent her first year on top of a mountain, in the boondocks of the boondocks surrounded by rich kids with too much money, too many things, too little drive to study and parents that not only condoned underage drinking, they drank with their underage kids.

She never went to a football game or party, ("Mom, they are drunk before, during and after the game.") and worked as much as she could in the library and other odd jobs while study took top priority. She started at that school with the sole purpose of NOT being there the next year.

She re-applied to her dream school, was waitlisted again, but kept up a close contact with the transfer admissions lady. She had decided that another school would be a backup rather than Sewanee. But she got in her dream school as a transfer. She was thrilled and now a year later is going to be an RA, is on the Dean's List and happy as a clam... at William & Mary.

There were those low days when a hug just couldn't make it better. But she says that the year at Sewanee was a good thing. She hated it soooo much that it made her appreciate all the students, faculty and opportunities at W&M even more than she would have if she had been accepted the first year.

Hopefully, your son's friend's mom gave him a big hug.

At 8:01 PM , Anonymous Last Girl On Earth said...

What a touching and beautifully written post. I know first hand how hard it is to put yourself out there. Sometimes they love you. Sometimes they don't. The music biz is very much like that. So in a way, experiencing the disappointments at a young age prepares you for what life is really like in the real world. Harsh but true. But if you keep putting it out there, chances are the rewards will pay off. YOu seem like an amazing parent. Michele sent me tonight and I'm glad she did.

At 7:54 AM , Anonymous Laura said...

I could feel for your son's friend, that was awfully sad.
I've seen this happen at both of my daughters' schools, where there is intense competition to get into band, chorus and on many of the teams. It's hard to watch these kids walk away because they didnt' make the audition.

Sometimes it leads to another path, another opportunity or something better in life. But it's still very hard emotionally.

And sometimes I think it's almost harder on the parent than it is on the kid! :)

I hope the boy has something better to get involved with. :(

At 6:44 PM , Blogger kenju said...

What a GOOD post, Karen. Should be required reading for parents.

I sued to tell my kids, when they were disappointed like that, not to be sad or mad. Missing out on one thing frees you up for something even better. Perhaps the universe is telling you no for a reason.

At 9:29 PM , Blogger carli said...

rejection stinks; I hope that drummer gets over it and is able to have a happy year anyway.
Michele sent me.

At 10:52 AM , Anonymous rampant bicycle said...

*yawn* G'morning. Happy Monday, and hello from Michele's!

At 5:12 PM , Blogger Becky said...

That is some tenacity for you to continue trying out, and that's great! My continual failures have been running for student body elections. I think from grade school through college, I must've run about 10 times and lost every time. People even told me they knew I'd do a better job, but I just didn't have the charisma to get elected. Hmmm....

At 7:01 AM , Blogger Carmi said...

I think we all need to go through these trying experiences when we're young, and we need to go through them often. It toughens us and prepares us for the real world.

That's logical, of course. But it doesn't make being a parent any easier. We wish we could extend our parental, protective cloak around our kids forever, to keep them shielded from all the bad things that the world will throw at them.

But that's utopian, at best. Reality dictates that at some point we won't be able to shield them.

And we once again have a perfect illustration of parenthood, thanks to you. You always say it so thoughtfully, Karen.

At 2:33 PM , Blogger Linda said...

I can relate on a personal level. I'm a musician, and I've auditioned and failed more than I care to remember. I was a decent player as a elementary/middle school kid - I made the all county band every year, with the same two kids in front of me, every year. It got to be a joke that we'd just go and sit in the first three chairs of the section, even if we didn't audition, because we KNEW we'd be there.

Come high school, there were bigger fish in the pond to deal with. I auditioned for All-State band for 4 years. I didn't get accepted the first 3 years. My two cohorts from all county DID make it. That stung. I made it on year 4. They did too. Carrie was number 1 in the state. Albert was number 5. I was number 20...of 25. That stung. And I had to choose between the All-State concert or my senior prom. I worked too hard to not go to the concert. I missed the prom (no big loss, actually)

But it's hard to to fail. It's hard as a parent to protect our kids from we need to learn to prepare them.


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