Going through some old emails this morning, I came across one I wrote to our three daughters a little over a year ago. It occurs to me that it might speak to you or someone you know. Here it is, slightly edited.
I’ll try to keep this brief, but it’s been burning in my mind since I watched a taped production of “Kinky Boots” on public television last night. In one memorable song, a principal character, an African American man playing a drag queen, sang about how he had not turned out to be the person his dad had dreamed he would become. It got me thinking about my own dear father, whom I so loved and respected.
I know that I disappointed him. He wanted another masculine male like my older brother, good with tools, athletic, macho. In me he got a nerdy, skinny, unathletic kid who preferred literature, music and theater, who as a child flopped on the floor and read the big dictionary page after page because he was fascinated with words. Dad and I went to ballgames together, and one year we sang in a chorus together, but that about summarizes what we had in common as males sharing the same family.
I started acting in plays when I was 11, sang in choirs from a much earlier age, formed my own dance band, played in it and directed it through high school and after. I took multiple classes in a theater arts school in my 20s, joined its touring company, performed a lot, was recognized with an award for my work.
Last night, on hearing that song, I remembered: My parents never came to watch me perform. Not once. Not ever.
My sister was talented musically, and still is. In high school, she was awarded a Carnegie scholarship, which earned her piano lessons at Peabody and the privilege of singing in its prestigious all-girl choir, a fantastic group. My folks expected this. She was a girl and a great student, and this sort of activity was appropriate, expected.
I know that my parents were proud of me for other reasons, and I will always love them, but they never supported me when I was doing what I was most passionate about.
I share this not to pity myself. I’ve had a great life enriched by participating in arts and letters. I don’t bear a grudge against my wonderful parents. I’m sharing these thoughts with you because your children are just now at that crucial, exquisite point in their lives when they are beginning to realize who they are and what they want to become. What their true passions are. You and your husbands are great parents, making wise decisions, offering loving guidance. I know this. You want only the best for them. You don’t want them to be copies of you.
My prayer is for you to know when to stand back and let them pursue their passions. Then support them as they do.
With much love,