This week, a very interesting article appeared on Cracked.com from former child star Mara Wilson, who most of us know from the movies Matilda and Mrs. Doubtfire. She wrote about what her experiences were in the entertainment industry and why she believed other former child stars may have gone crazy. It hit sort of close to home for me, not because I am a former child star, though I did start acting at the age of 16 (and no where near a star), but because I’ve contemplated getting my children into acting.
Once my family and I moved here from Chicago over a year ago, Anneka, my oldest, went on a few auditions, and I ended up in a really cool play in Hollywood. But as we transitioned to living in the land of no snow and Anneka started kindergarten, I began contemplating if I should try to get them in acting at all. As I tried to explain to family and friends (who told me since day one that I should try to get the kids into the entertainment industry), I had many reasons to drag my feet on the whole idea. My children, all three girls, are 6-year-old Anneka and almost 4-year-old twins Mia and Laila. These are my varied reasons to perhaps not get them into acting at all.
What Happens Later
Lindsay Lohan and Amanda Bynes are both former child stars who seem to be top news every other day. Who knows the true story of how they got this way, one in and out of rehab and the other seemingly having some sort of mental breakdown. Many different reasons could have contributed, including being the breadwinner for the family, not having a strong adult presence to set boundaries or even just having the sense of entitlement due to everyone saying yes to them all of the time. What about the child actors who were huge when they were little and cute, and then got older and the offers stopped coming? How does a child transition from people telling them how great they are to being almost ignored entirely? How about poor Gary Coleman, who was treated almost like a sideshow attraction as a child, with a catchphrase and everything, but as he got older, not only did they hire another cute kid to take over the role of cute kid on his show, but he couldn’t book roles as an adult? Of course, that doesn’t happen to every former child star, but I should be concerned, right?
People approach me a lot to tell me that my kids are adorable or to compliment me on their long, curly hair. Though I find it flattering, I also find it a little scary. It’s not too bad, considering it’s usually just other moms at a playground with their own children. But once, at a mall, a woman came up to my twin daughters’ double stroller and began playing in Laila’s hair. I found it a little strange that someone would just come up to my child and just start playing with my baby’s curls. And the twins were much younger at this point, with pacifiers still in their mouths. That freaked me out, especially when they were infants, they were premature and I was very careful with who I let hold them or touch them. I believe I’m still too sensitive about people touching them, but I’m pretty sure that’s most moms. So the idea of them being on a set, surrounded by a bunch of strangers, sort of freaks me out!
Dina Lohan. Kris Jenner. I’m sure there are 50,000 other stage moms and dads who were and are still known for pushing their kids into the public spotlight, regardless of whether or not the kid seems interested. And if the kid is interested, who’s to say it is something these kids wanted to do for the rest of their lives? It must be hard to support your entire family and your parents, who are not working because they manage your career. What kind of pressure must that be for a child? Knowing me, I’d have a reverse stage mom reputation. I’d be the mom who would take them to the audition and the moment they started getting tired, I’d grab my kid and say they were going home to rest. I’m not really big on pushing little kids to do something they don’t want to do, other than cleaning their room, which they have to do before bed.
Yes, child stars, once they hit it big, get paid a good amount of money that can pay for your rent, mortgage, car note, family trips, their schooling, their college fund, etc. I’m aware that when children work, you have to set up a Coogan account (it’s the law), so 15% of the money they are paid has to be put in a bank account that they cannot touch until they are 18. First of all, it’s really not enough. Fifteen percent is too low of a percentage, if you ask me. If a child is working, which really sounds silly if you put it that way, then don’t they deserve a little more than 15% of their own money? And yes, there are many parents of working child actors who spend their kids money solely on the kids, whether it’s putting away more than that 15% or sending them to a private school. But what about the parents who put away the money they have to, and then spend the rest on themselves? We’re currently not scrambling for money, though we’re nowhere near rich. I think currently their father and myself should worry about the money for the next family trip, their school supplies and putting away money for college.
Perfectly Happy With Their Lives As Is
I must admit, my oldest daughter Anneka was bitten by the acting bug last year. She had a manager who got her an audition for a pilot for a major network. I was probably more nervous than she was. She did well on the audition, but they picked another little girl and then the show didn’t get picked up by the network. Since then, Anneka from time to time asks when she’s going to go on another audition. Is it hindering her life that she’s not on a TV show? Probably not. She doesn’t ask about it all the time and she certainly doesn’t cry about it. She’s just as happy right now going to the LA Zoo or Venice Beach. Perhaps, one day, when all three are a bit older, they’ll come to me and their dad and want to talk about seriously pursuing an acting career. But if it’s not hurting them or stifling them creatively, I won’t bring it up.
Whether people think they’re cute or should be in acting won’t make me push them into doing something that may not be good for them at this time. It’s all about timing. Perhaps they will someday be models or actors or even musicians like their dad, but if they’re doctors, company CEOs or teachers, I really wouldn’t be disappointed or upset. Besides, I already have to share them with their dad, their school, their friends and other family members – why should I have to share them with the world right now?