Cast Away

Has your child ever tried out for something–position on a sport, part in a play, chair in the band, part in the choir –and wished they had tried for another later?

My youngest son has been in his school’s play every year since kindergarten. Each year, the students in grades K-2 are given support roles, for the most part, they are background characters that participate in small, but meaningful ways — singing songs or milling about as if they are part of a larger crowd.  The older kids, in grades 3-5, get priority for the roles with speaking parts with the highest grade getting highest priority.

My son, who is in the third grade decided to try out for a speaking part, but was clear he didn’t want to be a main character in this year’s production of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. He and I practiced the lines he was given. He put extra effort into playing a convincing Mr. Bucket (Charlie’s dad) for his audition, but when the cast list came out he learned he would play the part of an Oompa Loompa. He was very disappointed. I asked him ‘why?’ He gave me a look that said ‘give-me-a-break-mom-you-know-why.’ After I stayed quiet for a few moments he said, “It’s embarrassing. I’ll barely have any lines.”  “But I didn’t think you wanted many lines?” I said. “I said I didn’t want to be a main main character like Charlie or Willy Wonka,” he shared. “Okay, well, we’ll have to let the director know that next year so she knows you’re interested in a role with more lines,” I finished.

Our exchange reminded me of times in my life when I held myself back from really going for something — trying for a top position/seat on a team, or singing a solo at church to name a few. I often regretted not going for it afterwards. While there was some relief in knowing I wouldn’t be embarrassed if I failed, I was disappointed I didn’t push myself to try harder and show the talent I really had — not so others would understand my potential, but that I would.

My son will have another opportunity next year to try out for a part in the play, and I will encourage him to really go for it and see what he can accomplish. I’ll be able to remind him of what happens when you hold yourself back — you just don’t know what you’re capable of.

What do you do when your child tries to ‘cast’ off really going for a tough role or part? How do you encourage them to work through their reluctance so they can see their full potential?

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