Anyone who has seen the musical “Gypsy” knows that certain people turn into the stage mothers from hell. It really ought to be a mental designation in the DSM 5, and it should be defined as someone who is so unhappy with her own life that she attempts to live vicariously through that of her child, whether he or she likes it or not.
I once knew a woman whose daughter was heavily into Irish Dance. Or so I thought. Their whole lives revolved around competitions. They traveled hours each week for lessons. Mom purchased obscenely expensive costumes, and came very close to losing her job because she took so much time off for competitions. Daughter broke her foot on several occasions, and started back dancing way before she should have. She will experience pain for the rest of her life. I used to think that was amazing effort and sacrifice on her part to excel in something she loved, and oh! what a loving and supportive mother! Then I had a talk with the daughter one day, and discovered that she no longer wanted to dance at all. It was fun at first, but her mother put so much pressure on her and it took up so much time, it had become more like a horrible job. And she had no time to just be a kid, to just have fun and goof off and make friends. She was even home schooled and had no social skills whatsoever. From then on I saw it for what it was: a sickness. The daughter finally grew up, left home, and they no longer speak.
I know another girl who just had a baby, and she told me she was entering the child in those horrible kiddie beauty pageants. I said, “Why don’t you wait until she’s old enough for her to decide for herself?” She replied, “Well, I can’t do that. She might not want to.” That pretty much says it all, doesn’t it?
But stage moms aren’t just relegated to the stage. I used to really feel sorry for the valedictorian of my high school class. I have never known a more stressed out person in my life. She HAD to be the best. HAD to. For her mother. It was so freaking important to her mother that this girl practically made herself sick over it. One day my mother and I ran into her in the library, and my mom asked her what she was going to be majoring in when she went to college. I can’t really remember what she said, but it sounded dreary, and I said as much. I’ll never forget what she said. “Well, it’s not what I want to study, it’s what my mother wants me to study.” And my mother said, “Hmmmm. Wow. Well, I’d never do that to Barb. I want her to be herself and enjoy her life and chart her own course.” That girl looked at my mom like she had two heads. Granted, I chose a really stupid major and came away with a useless degree, but I enjoyed every minute of college. I lost touch with the valedictorian, but I’m willing to bet that she spent a lot of years being miserable, and had to experience a major crisis in her life before she took charge of it, if she ever did.
I may not be a parent myself, but this I can guarantee: if you attempt to control the direction of your children’s life, if you stifle their individuality and don’t allow them to think for themselves, your relationship with those children will be severely damaged sooner or later. And as adults they will have issues, whether it is an extreme midlife crisis, anger management problems, depression, divorce, or difficulty relating to their own children. This “gift” you are giving them will keep on giving, to be sure.