Photo courtesy Txallekat

It seemed like a typical beginning to a Monday morning for the rest of us, for them, it was a chance of a lifetime. As the sun peaked over the horizon and simply yawned itself awake, to them it was as if it was exploding onto the scene proclaiming their lives changed. While most of us were robotically driving southbound surrounded by a herd of metal, chrome, and rubber, they were gathering, nearly 100,000 strong at Texas Stadium, praying for their chance to be the next American Idol!
Now, I must admit to you (and only you, please do not tell anyone else) that I am a big fan of the show. Please do not hold it against me, but it is true. To see normal people, like the busboy from Luby’s, make it big, is somewhat inspiring. But I must confess I do not watch so much for the winners as I do for the losers. I am absolutely intrigued by what possesses bad singers to go on national TV, belt out a song that makes my dog cringe only to be ridiculed by the judges and to be the source of laughter around millions of coffee pots the next morning.
It’s the “American Idol Phenomenon.”
Yes, there are those who perform who know they are terrible. They sing poorly, they laugh (and get laughed at) but in the end, they exit gracefully stage left, pleased with their 60 seconds of fame. The phenomenon begins and ends with another group of singers who are terrible but believe they are the next best thing. They kick, scream, cry, yell, and even curse at the news of their rejection. Their typical response is that their friends and family say that they are great singers!
The reality is they are not, and they are simply reacting to a convoluted portrayal of themselves.
In fact, in a show that I will never forget, a mother burst down the door and refused to leave because she felt her child deserved a second chance to be on the show. Given the opportunity to sing again, her daughter proceeded to squawk out a song that forced me to actually mute, yes mute, my TV. As the judges, my dog, and I stared in silent disbelief, the mother actually said, after misinterpreting the silence as positive, “See I told you she sounds like an angel.”
As with most life lessons, lessons from the phenomenon are bitter sweet. It shows that we as parents have a significant and profound effect on how our children view themselves. That, in and of itself, comes with an awesome and heavy responsibility. We must support our children in their chosen endeavors, but we must also sprinkle in a healthy dose of honesty.
Honesty is important because not only does it validate your input as a parent, but it is also the birthplace for inspiration and hard work. Crushing their dreams by telling them they cannot sing is much different than supporting them and encouraging them to work harder. Now, I am not talking about 1st grade piano recitals, but somewhere down the line your little angel does not need to find out on national TV that she, in fact, cannot sing.
We as parents have the ability to shape our children’s own reality of themselves and their view of their own surroundings. Their honest inspiration is evident even on the opposite spectrum of the phenomenon. Some of the most heartwarming portions of American Idol are the close-ups of contestants running into their parents arms. Mothers and fathers telling their talented children in response to making the show “See, I told you that you could do it.” Seeing and hearing their parents’ pride in them, at that moment, is probably more important to them than the chance at fame and fortune.
Our words and actions as parents can help mold our children’s self-worth and lead them to the beginnings of great things. On the other hand, we can also mold their views to be less than practical with the absence of realism.
The balance between being supportive and practical honesty takes practice. But in the end, if your conversations are not practical, it could leave their high school classmates to be the ones to tell them that Santa Claus is not real. Now that would be a reality show.
This post is adapted from an article by a good friend of mine Aaron Chowning. Hope you enjoy.

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