this summer we enrolled our daughter, Olivia, in her first theatre camp at a local high school. It was designed to be a fun week-long camp of singing songs and making friends while learning the fundamentals of theatre. The musical was “The Wizard of Oz” and in preparation for it; Olivia learned the song “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.” She had practiced it months before camp and knew all of the lyrics. I was afraid that she might have her sights set on the role of Dorothy and explained that it would probably go to an older child. She was resolved that she was going to try and said, “as long as I do not get cast as a flying monkey I will be fine.”
After the first day of camp, her father and I arrived to pick her up and found her crying. We had expected to see a happy child brimming with excitement of the day and instead found her curled up in a chair. She had shared that she was not cast as Dorothy, which was a disappointment, but was cast as one of the flying monkeys!
Her father wanted to fix it for her, as most fathers do, and asked to speak to the director who was unavailable. He then asked a volunteer if she could have another role instead. Our first inclination as parents was to fix it for her rather than encouraging her to do her best with what she had been given. After quickly resetting, we then encouraged her to stick to her role while also trying out for one of the opening numbers with the song she had memorized.
Olivia had tried out the next day and while I wish I could say she was chosen, she was not. She gave it her all and was once again disappointed. I had to reiterate that she had tried her best and if this is something she wanted she had to realize that sometimes you don’t get the part.
Olivia, being resilient, was able to recover and spring back to be an enthusiastic flying monkey! She delivered her lines with gusto and was able to project to the back row! Before this play, her father and I had been afraid to let her stumble. In the past she had received ribbons just for showing up. This was a good learning experience for all of us. For her it was a life lesson in resilience and for us, as parents, of not being afraid to let her fail. Olivia ended up having a memorable time at camp and is awaiting her next play.
Nicole Aptekar is a parent, advocate and founder of Advocacy For Autism and is a Group Facilitator for Autism Society of Inland Empire. For a calendar of upcoming autism support group meetings and workshops, please visit www.advocacyforautism.com.