Monkey Mama Takes the Stage

8 Sep

I am delighted to introduce my friend, Ann Thurlow, as a guest blogger.  She has been busy taking her son to visit various colleges for theater and performing arts programs and she will be blogging about them.  It is an area that is not often covered in college guidebooks so I hope you will enjoy reading about their experiences.

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My friend has magnanimously invited me to provide an occasional byline in this blog.  Our children are the same age, but our experiences and perspectives are radically different.  Although she would probably prefer to be called something other than Tiger Mother, I feel she deserves a feline moniker nevertheless, an ocelot or a puma, perhaps.  If the exacting parent of a high achieving student is a Tiger Mom, I am an unapologetic – well, slightly apologetic – Monkey Mama.

I was born in the year of the monkey and prefer chattering, arguing, and leaping from one attraction to the next to focusing on discrete tasks.  Where my hostess has carefully planned and organized her daughter’s college search for more than a year, I have blithely hoped that every day I postpone initiating the dreadful enterprise, might yield an additional day of wisdom and maturity for my cherished firstborn son.  Today might just be the day where he arrives to class on time, homework assignment in hand, and equipped with all necessary materials.

The hospital sent the right baby home in 1994 and he will – God willing and the creek don’t rise – graduate high school next year.  The one subject where he has consistently excelled at and exerted himself is theater, and he wants to be an actor.

A theater major might not be as practical as engineering or accounting, but this boy is never going to be an engineer or accountant.  Monkey Mama (and her silent partner) acknowledge this, and realize that the alternatives like art history, creative writing, or anthropology, offer no more promising long term career prospects than a degree in the performing arts.  So Monkey Mama is now a stage mother for Number One Monkey Son (aka Monkey Son).

Perhaps I should not have checked the statistics, just as I should not have peeked at the long term prognosis for stage III lung cancer when my husband was first diagnosed.  I might have been a calmer helpmate had I not seen that he had, at best, a 15% to 20% likelihood of ever being as healthy as he is now.  I apologize to all who think an analogy between cancer and college is unseemly, but the latter threatens to consume the next year of Monkey Mama’s fragmentary attention as much as the former claimed 2009.

I knew that an aspiring actor’s prospects for steady, remunerative employment were dismal, but I didn’t realize how low the odds were for admission to the undergraduate programs which will train my future Starbucks barista.  The big picture for theater applicants is that they will all almost certainly be accepted into an acting program somewhere, but the process is exhausting and heartbreaking for students and parents alike.  Nevertheless, Monkey Mama will seize the vine and swing up that learning curve quickly.

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2 Responses to “Monkey Mama Takes the Stage”

  1. Janet Holmes September 8, 2011 at 6:52 PM #

    Thank you Tiger Mom and Monkey Mama for this amusing anecdote.

  2. Maryann September 8, 2011 at 10:42 PM #

    I have 2 children. In the college search for my firstborn, an on-time, carefully prepared, creative and highly-achieving young woman, I was some version of Tiger Mom. She has graduated with a rich and deep college experience which she will carry with her always. She is now pursuing her Masters. I understand her.

    My son, equally bright and creative, was always sliding into his high school classroom seat at the last second with his hair on fire, books tumbling onto the floor. He progressed into the theater guy over the years, therefore I can relate. There is just no fighting this…trust me! Absolutely nothing about his college search nor his career/major choices since then have been predictable nor typical. He is happy taking the road less traveled. I started out as Tiger Mom with him, but have evolved into Monkey Mom.

    From this perspective, I applaud both of you. In the end, whether Tiger Mom or Monkey Mom, or both, we do this because we want the best for our children. That involves knowing who they are and honoring their uniqueness. Bravo to both of you!

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