As if going on auditions, dealing with rejection and always feeling like I need to ‘focus’ wasn’t quite enough to handle for myself, now I’ve become a stage mom. Well, almost. In a twist of events a few weeks ago, a producer friend of mine said that “Marie” (as in, the Hallmark Channel talk show heralded by the gorgeous, effervescent and uber-talented American sweetheart Marie Osmond) needed a small group of toddlers for a segment promoting ABC’s new family gameshow “Bet On Your Baby” (a show where parents can test how well they know their child’s next move in a playroom while earning serious cash for their college fund). Without blinking, I signed us up to play along for this mini-version. (And then realized that I should probably ask my husband if he had any issue with it, which thankfully he didn’t.)
It’s times like these when working in TV comes in handy. HOW FUN IS THIS GONNA BE?!?!?!? I kept thinking. And it was fun… until it made me nervous and scared and almost question my sanity as a parent. LadyP’s a good little girl, but let’s face it: She’s TWO. Ok, 2-and-a-half. Translation: She has more mood swings than me on my very worst days.
BUT THIS IS GONNA BE FUN!!!!! (Right?) Until we entered the studio and went to the greenroom to wait…
Immediately she started clinging to my leg and not letting go. (?!? I’m confused. Did this new shy child switch places with my wild woman at the reception desk?) Then in true toddler-form she started screaming and crying and sobbing (that heavy and uncontrollable type of sobbing) for “Mommy!” as I sat in the makeup chair for 10 minutes with the other two moms getting touched up before we taped the show. The tears. The open mouth that never closed even though sound wasn’t coming out. The sweat beads on her forehead. I don’t think I’ve ever seen her that hysterical before. I was shocked and felt helpless and so so sorry that I’d even thought this might be a fun bonding moment for us and cute story for her baby book. My little Miss Independent got spooked on a soundstage.
And for the entire pre-show rehearsal, all she wanted to do was ignore everyone (including a former stage manager of mine) and rearrange the chairs on set. (I wonder how mother-of-many Marie Osmond herself would’ve handled it? Unfortunately she was busy and not available for an on-set emergency parenting session.)
Why I am doing this to my baby? I remember thinking as this hot young stylist curled my hair. I felt like some of the staff were eyeing me up and down like, “Ok stage mom… don’t you think you’ve taken this far enough?” The truth is, I didn’t know what to do. No one else’s kids were doing this. Was this a fleeing moment of toddler insecurity (in a new place) that’d wash away once we stepped into the light together, or was this a sign that the actual taping would be a complete disaster and we’d screw up the whole segment? We weren’t getting paid and she didn’t care that she was going to be on TV… so why didn’t I just pack up, say thanks-but-no-thanks and go home right then and there?
I’ll tell ya why: Because I work in TV… and we were going to finish this gig (even though, yes, she’s only TWO). I also happened to know some of the producers and pretty much the entire stage managing team on the floor from a previous job I had. We. Were. Finishing. This. Selfish, maybe. But it was the only viable solution at the time. I hugged her, I kissed her, I sat her on my lap… I even let her play with my iPhone (which is a big-deal, total-last-resort if you know me). And of course I told her to ‘smile big, sweetheart.’
Eventually LadyP calmed down, played with all the toys, had a starstruck moment with “Bet On Your Baby’s” pretty host Melissa Peterman and we did our thing. BOY did we do our thing. (WATCH HERE.) Let’s just say that I’m pretty convinced LadyP thought that taping was some big audition for Marie’s Las Vegas stageshow. (Yes, I ate it up too.)
All went well that ended well, but I couldn’t help but think of all the moms whose kids actually audition and work in TV on a regular basis. HOW DO YOU ALL DO IT? The nerves, the doubts, the concern, the infuriation, the uncertainty, the hurt. I give all of you real and experienced ‘stage moms’ more credit than I can even offer. Putting your baby in the spotlight is incredible (trust me, I know how intoxicating the high is), but it also involves the most delicate of feelings that, as a mother, are sometimes more difficult to navigate and control than we are able. I was on-edge for about 3 hours nonstop right until the moment when LadyP pulled off her big bear-win onstage. Is she gonna do this? Is she gonna flip out? Is she gonna subconsciously resent me later? Now that we’ve seen the result and you now know the whole backstory, I’m pegging her as one of those kids that will put me through you-know-where just to keep me unnerved and on the tip of my toes until she pulls off whatever it is she’s supposed to pull off throughout her life. I’m betting on that.
All I wanted to do that day was to have fun and make sure my LadyP got through what we signed up for while also considering the time and production value at stake for producers depending on us to do what we went to do. Even for me (and my experience in working in TV), it was TOUGH with a toddler. I think I lost 5 pounds from just ‘worrying’ about my mini-me that morning. Talk about an unforgettable lesson in mommyhood.
But yeah: I’d sign us up again in a fabulous little second. Thank you Marie!
WATCH “BET ON YOUR BABY” ON ABC SATURDAY NIGHTS (no, we’re not on that one, but still… it’s really cute and funny).
AND DO TELL: HOW DOES YOUR TODDLER GIVE YOU A RUN FOR YOUR MONEY?