Competition. Kind of an ugly word, especially to a kid like my sweet oldest daughter, age 12, who would love to live in a world where “everybody wins.” As a parent, I admire the heck out of her desire for everyone to be happy and everything to be equal all the time, but of course I worry–it’s a competitive world, right? Again and again, you’ll be expected to show you’re the best for the job, that you should win the grant, that you can be the supervisor, that you are the one who is meant to have that . . . whatever it is. I sure don’t want my daughter to be left in the dust, Every Single Time.
She’s not a particularly sporty kid, though she likes to be active, but then neither are my husband and I. We’ve encouraged her interest in the arts because that’s what we know. Even there, competition for dance roles or parts in a play hasn’t really been a big part of her life, by choice. The pressure of auditions, of performing on cue, showing off a skill, of (*gasp*) “beating” someone else, or being beaten by them . . . if you asked her, she’d tell you “it’s not my favorite thing.” Ever the diplomat.
She’s mostly interested in drawing, in fact–animation and such. Which is great, but still–competition huddles there in the back of my mind. Won’t she be expected at some time to show she’s “the best”–candidate for art school, person for this scholarship or this internship or this project?
Part of my fascination for children’s books about the performing arts is that they allow a kid reader to view competition and to vicariously participate in it. The story will often have some sort of important audition, maybe for a lead role, such as dancing Clara in The Nutcracker. Your protagonist will obviously long for this role, but often–they won’t get it. How do they deal with the disappointment? How do they prepare for the next time around? What was it that held them back in the first place–and what will they do to change that?
If you’ve read enough Streatfeild, you’ll know that many of her characters even had a special name for their audition routine–“m’audition.” The kids at The Children’s Academy of Dancing and Stage Training went on so many try-outs, the words “my audition routine” got shortened as part of the school slang. It wasn’t long before they’d performed “m’audition” so many times, they could do it in their sleep. Madame made sure those kids were pros!
Did you enjoy competition as a child? Did you shun it, like my daughter? If you didn’t care for competition, were you okay with reading about it? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this–and if you have a favorite book memory of an audition or competition, be sure to mention it. Mine is probably Rachel’s film audition in Noel Streatfeild’s Dancing Shoes, but more on that on another day.