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The play’s the thing

For this teen, singing and theater keep her dreams afloat. But mom’s criticism is dragging her down. Our elder reviews a few therapy options to get them back on script.

Dear EWC:

Hi there, I’m 16 years old and from Southern California. During the pandemic, while my issues have been quite small, they have still taken a toll on me. I went through my first breakup, lost my best friend, was diagnosed with an eating disorder, had a seizure, lost my close neighbor to cancer, and my cat as well. I probably wouldn’t have made it except for something that seems kinda silly. I started listening to Broadway musicals for the first time and it kinda changed my life. I found a new appreciation for theater and singing and I’m the happiest I’ve ever been.

This is awesome because this has led me to reconnect with several of my old friends who share this passion with me. I have always been shy and quiet but now for some reason I have the courage to sing in front of others and I’m good at it! The issue is my mom. She’s really strict and doesn’t really believe in having dreams and is only interested in STEM, not ‘artsy s**t’ as she calls it. I keep telling her I am joining drama club or that we have a cabaret performance in March. But she laughs and thinks it’s dumb.

She says I need to stop getting carried away by others’ dreams and focus on school and swim. She doesn’t believe I can handle a sport and drama club too but I’ve been doing it for a while and heck, I’m the drama club president. I’m the one who schedules stuff so typically it’s according to my schedule and the schedule of someone who also does swim! But she keeps laughing; she thinks it’s all one big joke, the idea of me singing and acting. This hurts so much as she has constantly told and made fun of me for my hair, my weight, my skin, and everything.

I get that a mom should be correcting her kids so they don’t look and do dumb stuff, but my friend’s mom thinks it looks like borderline emotional abuse. How can I convince my mom that I am going to do this thing, that I am good at it and that I’m not some big dreaming joke. Thanks for your time and your advice.

PJC replies:

You have been through a lot in your short life. I’m glad to read that you are excited about drama club and singing. Singing is such a wonderful form of expression. And, I am very sorry to read that your mother not only doesn’t support you, but that she is emotionally abusive, as well. I agree with your friend’s mom.
My advice is to contact your doctor(s) who handled your eating disorder and/or your seizure. Request that they refer you and your mom to a counselor/therapist. I think that family therapy would help you both. And if she refuses to join you, I encourage you to participate on your own. I think you need some professional support to deal with your mom and the restrictions that she is trying to place on you.

Here’s the thing about parents: They may love their children, but often, they don’t respect them. This is where I think that counseling might be helpful. Especially since you had a serious eating disorder and a seizure, then I would hope that your mom would be eager to get to some understanding of those mysterious and wonderful qualities that make you especially you, and what she can do to encourage you in your heart-felt pursuits and to keep you well, safe and happy.

You have been through a wreck of a year. Any one of those traumas would be a major issue from which to recover (and it wouldn’t hurt to talk all those experiences through with a therapist). I am so pleased that you discovered drama club. Dreams are wonderful, even dreams that don’t last a lifetime. The dreams I held at your age are different from the dreams I hold now. But all dreams are valuable and worthy of pursuit, even if they don’t turn out the way we would wish. I will keep you in my thoughts for a good outcome with your mom.

Family
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