I suspect you may not remember the brief encounter. It was late. After 9pm. You were behind my husband at the checkout line at our local grocery store. The cashier was the daughter of one of our friends. When the cashier asked my husband what my son was up to these days, you heard him tell her that our son was at college in New York majoring in acting. That’s when you took it upon yourself to tell my husband how irresponsible it was to waste money on such a frivolous and useless degree. I’m told you asked my husband how he could support such a fruitless path.
My husband, an easy-going non-confrontational guy made a lighthearted and friendly quip as he scooped up his purchase leaving our friend’s daughter to absorb the remainder of your unbidden opinion.
My husband is not one to be bothered by unsolicited criticism; most things roll off his back. I would have engaged. I would have felt irritated and defensive as our friend’s daughter did but, as she was at work her irritation was wisely stifled; until she got home and shared the encounter with her mother who later shared it with me.
You may not be aware that from the time my son was a year old he has been impersonating others, skillfully mimicking the speech inflections, physical gestures and personalities of everyone with whom he came in contact.
You may not be aware that throughout nursery, elementary, middle and high school, teachers and coaches remarked on his zest for performing; some frustrated by it, others enchanted, but just about all recommending we help him find outlets through which to express it.
You may not be aware that my father, my son’s grandfather, left his home in Boston for Hollywood at the tender age of 17 to pursue a career in the entertainment industry. He never attended college, yet with perseverance, grit, luck and talent built an extremely successful career. You may not be aware that my son’s grandmother often comments how like his grandfather my son is; how, as she says, “some things are in the blood.”
You may not be aware how fortunate I feel to have a child who knows exactly what he wants to do in life. A child who, despite knowing the pitfalls – financial hardship…incessant rejection…etc… remains hyper focused and hardworking. You may not be aware of what it’s like to have another child who struggles with finding their path, their interests; who is less sure of themselves, who is trying to find their way in the world. You may not be aware that the teenage and young adult years can be immensely difficult and how a kid’s fervor for something can lessen that difficulty. Theater kids are easy.
You may not be aware that despite my own parents’ missteps – and there were many – one of the few gifts they gave me was their belief that I should pursue the type of work which speaks to my soul.
You may not be aware that my son wishes to pursue this path because he finds no greater delight than bringing a tidbit of joy to others. You may not know that he has often remarked that if he could make just one person laugh or smile each day, his day would then be complete.
You may not be aware of the tremendous power things like human connectedness, vulnerability, and storytelling have over not only our health but our work place “success.” You may be aware that my son’s choice of studies will hone these indispensable qualities.
You may not be aware of the potential emotional and physical costs to a young person who feels they need to squelch who they are or what they wish to do in order to travel the path others set out for them.
You may not be aware of how many kids we know who despite being on a more “practical” college path, are struggling with anxiety, depression, substance abuse and a desire to leave school. Though these issues afflict all kinds of students, the lift my son’s spirit gets from performing keeps me hopeful that he might be able to avoid or at least more effectively cope with such issues should they arise.
You may not be aware that we understand your perspective; that the decision to allow our son this privilege was not taken lightly but rather entered into with alertness, imposed guidelines, dialogue, compassion and a healthy respect for the unknown.
Like I said, it’s probably better it was my husband there that evening.
Wishing you well,
A local parent.
Suzy DeYoung is a parent to three children, ages 24, 21 and 19. She started her career in television working as a production assistant and segment producer for a variety of programs including, Ryan’s Hope, Good Morning America and Live: Regis & Kathie Lee. Suzy later went on to earn a MSEdu in Parent and Child Development from Bank Street College of Education in New York. After moving to CT with her family and working as an educator, Suzy became involved in the recovery efforts put in place following the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School Shootings, working as a Care Coordinator for the government funded, Newtown Recovery and Resiliency Team. Presently, Suzy works with The Avielle Foundation, a non-profit established in honor of six-year-old Avielle Rose Rich