Printer-friendly version

A Parents’ Guide to Conservatory Auditions, Part 23: Letting Go

Karen Rile

Written by
Published: April 24, 2014 at 11:29 PM [UTC]

Click here for a reference page to all of Karen Rile's series: A Parents' Guide to Conservatory Auditions


You were there for her all along: organizing piles of paperwork, writing checks for the accompanist, and typing in your credit card number on the final screen of each application. You were her travel agent and partner in adventure. You rearranged your work schedule so that you could go along on trips to fetch her water bottle and granola bars. You guarded her stuff during the auditions, making nervous small talk with the other parents. You were her loyal and supportive coat rack. You took her to Pinkberry the time she thought she'd bombed. You helped her endure the endless wait in March, insulating her from the irritating questions of well-meaning relatives. You shared her joy and her frustration at the results of her efforts. You helped her figure out how to pay for it. (Or maybe it's you who'll pay for it.)

A college audition cycle is like a pregnancy—nine months of sustained parental energy, all focused on achieving a single, momentous transition.

Congratulations: you are now the proud parent of a college student. Have a cigar.

Now its time to get out of the way.

Years ago, it was possible for kids to manage their own college applications and decisions without much parental input. The current process is problematic in that it creates a fussy, high-maintenance situation at the very time when adolescents should naturally be growing independent. Chances are, you and your child have been more connected on every level throughout this stressful season than in past years. That's lovely, but how is Junior supposed to move forward with his psychological individuation when Mom and Dad are hovering so close?

Here's how. (Buckle your seatbelt.) Parent after parent expresses bewilderment and hurt when their kid, the same kid who so sweetly depended on them throughout the tumultuous audition cycle, turns unexpectedly cold or even surly during the months before college begins.

"Fauntleroy used to be so easygoing. Now we're fighting, day and night."

"I don't know what's gotten into Punchinella. She's so hypercritical, I can't say a word without her jumping down my throat."

"Suddenly Ovaltina hates me—she's even unfriended me on Facebook!"

It's developmentally appropriate for your newly-minted young adult to withdraw from the intense parent-child bonding of the past few months. But that doesn't make it easy. Parenthood is a long, slow process of loss—but your awareness doesn't make the loss less painful.

Now that the college decision is settled, you may feel as if you've lost a driving force in your own life. As September looms on the horizon, your child has a shiny new future to look forward to. For you, it's just the twigs and feathers of your empty nest. Well-meaning childless friends (or friends with younger children) will congratulate you for all the extra me-time you'll have on hand You can catch up on your golf! (More likely you can catch up with your job and housework.) Your own parents, because they didn't give much thought or energy to your college choices, may be frankly puzzled. Your best bet for camaraderie is other parents. But you'll get through it, even without others to talk to.

Think back on other transitions in your life. When my babies were tiny, I dreaded the day that they'd be weaned. But when the day arrived it went unnoticed because it was time; we were ready. It was the same for the first day of pre-school, for the transition from their beloved Suzuki repertoire to rigor of Ševcík and Schradieck. How I thought I would miss braiding my four little girls' hair every morning at the breakfast table—and, yes, remembering those moments does fill me with tender nostalgia—but when the time comes, the separation will feel right.

In your next phase as a music-parent, you'll not be needed to carpool to rehearsals, carry around gear like a pack-horse, or write checks to the teacher (except a big one, twice a year). You won't be attending every performance (or any, if you live too far away.) You won't get a full report after every lesson and masterclass. That's not necessary anymore. And it will be okay.

Last week I was standing on a busy train platform when my pocket started buzzing. I pulled out my phone and saw my daughter’s face flashing on the screen. Most other calls I’d let go to voicemail, to return at a quieter time, but this one I picked up.

“Hi, Mama! I need advice!”

My heart quickened—she still needs me! I glanced around for a phone booth, to quick-change into my old SuperMom costume. But, alas, in this digital age there are no more phone booths, even at train stations. And my SuperMom duds have been in mothballs for a few years anyway. So, I paced the platform, listening. Her problem was this: orange, sputtering water coming out of the tap in her 5th floor apartment. What should she do?

I can’t help her with her musical decisions anymore. But I can tell her what little I know about plumbing. "They're probably just doing some work on the pipes in your building, or flushing a hydrant on the street. Just let the water run clear and it should be fine in a few days."

We chatted for a minute (joy!) and then my train arrived.

"Everything should be fine," I repeated.

And, you know what? It was.

* * *

Click here for a reference page to all of Karen Rile's series: A Parents' Guide to Conservatory Auditions

From Yixi Zhang
Posted on April 25, 2014 at 6:20 PM
Karen, you have super systems and no wonder all these amazing successes have taken place in one family!
Posted on April 26, 2014 at 1:45 AM
How this does resonate with me! My son is completing his Freshman ("Plebe") year at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis. If I get a text... a rare phone call... what a treasure! Yet, my son's independence means he must have been raised at least halfway right. He is strong. He is a good guy. He knows who he is and what he wants. He may do great things... yet, I hope he will one day remember all the more, the love that went into his making---and pass it on.

Posted on May 1, 2014 at 2:14 PM
Excellent piece- you really nailed this. I get excited when my son calls from Texas and then it's a question about the dishwasher! It's been tough having him so far away, but he's grown up there, become a man, found his musical direction and is happy. I have been walking this with the first two, and hope I can let go as well as the baby goes off to Boston. Oh least it's easier to get there from Baltimore and I promised her I'd show up for concerts and not hang around otherwise. Pinky promise.

This entry has been archived and is no longer accepting comments.

Facebook Twitter YouTube Instagram Email is made possible by...

Shar Music
Shar Music: Protect your instrument this winter

Pirastro Strings
Pirastro Strings

JR Judd Violins
JR Judd Violins

Starling-DeLay Symposium
Starling-DeLay Symposium

Los Angeles Philharmonic
LA Phil

Dimitri Musafia, Master Maker of Violin and Viola Cases
Dimitri Musafia, Master Maker of Violin and Viola Cases Shopping Guide Shopping Guide

ARIA International Summer Academy

Study with the Elizabeth Faidley Studio

Metzler Violin Shop

Southwest Strings

Bobelock Cases

Johnson String Instrument/Carriage House Violins

Jargar Strings

Bay Fine Strings Violin Shop


Los Angeles Violin Shop


String Masters

Nazareth Gevorkian Violins

Laurie's Books

Discover the best of in these collections of editor Laurie Niles' exclusive interviews. Interviews Volume 1 Interviews Volume 1, with introduction by Hilary Hahn Interviews Volume 2 Interviews Volume 2, with introduction by Rachel Barton Pine