Sunday, April 7, 2013

My Daughter was in a TV Commercial

vintage television


Claire has an agent. She goes on auditions. She earned her first paycheck for a commercial for the NFL.

The backstory is that my husband, George, is an actor. Our friend Jerry is a casting agent. He recommended Claire to an agent. The NFL job was her first audition. Out of a cattle call of 100 babies, my baby booked the job. The shoot for the commercial was a blast. If you watch closely to the final spot, Claire's has the money shot at the end, thus, confirming her star potential. Her grandmas were excited to email the video to everyone they knew. Of course, I was proud too. I didn't balk at the cash added to the college fund either. It was a great experience all around.


Those of you who know me surely realize that I can't be writing about this subject to just fawn on and on. You must know that I'm experiencing a chink in the works somehow.

Here's the thing. When Claire did the commercial, she had just turned one. She didn't even know what was going on. Now that she older…Can anyone say "Toddlers and Tiaras"…."Dance Moms"?

I wonder about the message I'm sending my daughter. I worry about rejection at a tender age. I ponder its effects on her unformed ego. I don't want her to have to deal with the adult pressures of work. I don't want her to have to perform on cue for a professional industry known to chew up and spit out heartier folk than my innocent babe in arms. I don't want to emphasize physical appearance, teach my daughter that self-esteem is based on the superficial, or show her that she can use her looks to sell product.

Yet, my husband has a very different opinion than me. He believes that being in the industry works to demystify the industry. He thinks that Claire will be like Dorothy in the Great Oz. The curtain will be drawn back to reveal the ordinary. The artificial air of glamour and power will be removed, along with rose-colored glasses. She will have the opportunity to see television and advertising for what they really are -- illusions. Or, to put it simply, that a camera is just a camera.

He also envisions a world full of options for Claire. He see himself opening doors of opportunity for her, for which many people would give their eye teeth. I am intent on unceremoniously closing them. He thinks that having the experience now will serve her well should she want to be an actress as an adult.

That's a big "if" to me. What about doctor, lawyer, or candlestick maker? Of course, she could get practice playing one of these things on television too. It worked for Doogie Howser. Still, while I find some of his arguments compelling, I'm just not convinced. In fact, the more I write about it here, the less I want my child to spend any time in front of the camera in a professional capacity.

Yet, I'm trying to be open-minded. I don't want to make a definitive decision before giving my husband's viewpoint serious consideration. I am a member of a partnership. I can't just make unilateral decisions now. We get equal say in how our daughter is raised.

Generally, when George and I have different opinions, we rely on objective research to tip the scales to one side or another. But when I googled "long-term effects of child modeling" and similar terms, I didn't find any research in scholarly journals or advice from expert psychologists (other than the opinion of one psychologist that Sally Mann's kids are well-adjusted).

So dear readers, I know that you are not short on opinions. What do you think about child acting/modeling? What do you do when you and your spouse have polar opposite opinions? Am I attempting to control my child's life or protect her from its dark side? Do I have legitimate concerns here or am I just being a worry-wart? I could really use some advice…


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63 comments:

  1. I am no expert here, but I think there are plenty of child actors to prove that it can have a negative effect (think Lindsay Lohan), but then again those like her at one end of the spectrum and there are others (like Mayim Balik and even Danica McKellar) that have gone on to get an education and be totally normal and well rounded. So, I probably am of very little help here, but just wanted to add that there are definitely two distinct roads and your daughter doesn't have to go down the one destructive one if she has you and her father, too there for support guiding her along the way.

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    1. We would definitely be guiding her, that's for sure.

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  2. Ok ... so the door swings in SO many directions. I was a child model and it continued through my teenage and early twenties. I was also very bright, did well in school and had the support of my parents.
    I chose ultimately not to continue when I myself realized that it was such an artificial business and while it was fun, there was still a negative side to it {just as with everything.} As her mother you can support her and teach her how to recognize when things aren't fun anymore or make her feel like she's got something better ahead of her.
    That's going to be a decision only she can make unfortunately. One that I made and I am very happy that I listened to my own insticts. Still ... being a mother know if Reagan decides to go that route as I did, I'll support her but also educate her without being too pushy as to what it really means to have fun and to know that there are SO many options available to her. Good luck my dear!

    ¤´¨)
    ¸.•*´
    (¸¤ Lanaya | xoxo
    www.raising-reagan.com

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    1. It's so great to hear your perspective, Lanaya, since you have had this experience. Thank you for sharing it. You turned out great! :)

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  3. Wow. Heavy topic. First, congrats on the cool Super Bowl commercial - she stole the show and is SO adorable. I can relate to both your and your husband's opinions. And to me, you're both right. In the end though, if I were you, I'd probably allow her to continue to audition but not make it all-consuming if that makes sense. Like don't begin to define her by that which I know you won't. She's already very lucky that she has you as a mom to teach her about what's really important in life and that it is NOT looks or being super-skinny or being famous. People are people.

    Also, a huge benefit is the money. College is just going to get more and more expensive. I know one of my worries for Tucker's future is that he will have enough from us for what he needs (needs, not wants), including possible support due to his disability. So if she can make some money and have fun doing it, I don't see the harm right now. But if she starts to not enjoy it, or, if as she gets older, you think that she's too into it and feels fat at age seven or something, you can always make her stop auditioning.

    When looking at child actors and who they become later, I think you can count on the fact that the screwed up ones have screwed up family lives (Lindsay Lohan). Claire won't have the crazy tiara mom. I have faith in the fact that you will be able to keep her balanced. That you're already thinking about it so much and everything proves that.

    Does that help at all?

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    1. No, I'm not a "tiara crazy mom", that's for sure. I think I'm the OPPOSITE, actually and I wonder if I'm too uptight...

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  4. Look, you're both right - it's a question of balance, as the whole of life is. Just as long as it does not become a means to an end for your daughter (and with your strong doubts I can't see that happening) and she enjoys doing it as she gets older, let it go on. Your husband is well aware of the dangers of over-exposure, as you are, so between you there should not be a problem. When she's old enough, if it becomes a choice between schooling and acting, well, as long as there's a good educational programme in place, again, no problem. As I said before - balance, balance, balance.

    Good luck to all three of you!

    Isobel: www.ColdhamCuddliescalling.blogspot.com

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  5. I think it's all about balance and I know that you will find what works best. :)

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  6. That was great fun to watch! As long as she isn't harmed and she's enjoying herself, then it's fine. My three bigger kids did modeling for a year and each got at least one advertisement in catalogs/commercials with a small pay-check, but the gas to get them to the auditions was costing more, so we decided it was a good experience and left it at that.

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    1. Aw, thanks, Christina! Glad you liked it!

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  7. I think it depends on the parents more than the child actors. Do you insist on Claire being a well-behaved, mannered, sweet girl who is generous, kind and thoughtful? Or will you make her believe she is the diva? There are plenty of non-famous kids out there who behave as badly as Lindsay Lohan, Toddlers in tiaras, etc. who forget the purpose of childhood -- raising kids!

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  8. First off--congrats on the commercial. SO cute!
    Now for my opinion--simply having these concerns shows that you are a good mother who cares deeply about her child. In my opinion, if you follow your heart and your instincts, I'm sure it'll all be just fine. As long as she has a family who loves her--and it's obvious that she does!--she'll be well-adjusted in whatever she does, I'd say. That's my opinion!

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  9. Since I'm not a mom, and since I live in the Midwest where professional actors are pretty nonexistent, I have no opinion on the topic but I wanted to say this: You've got an adorable kiddo! And just you mentioning your horror at "Toddlers and Tiaras" makes me think that's the last thing your lil' miss would be exposed to becoming like....from what I've observed, when kids have level-headed parents, that outlook is usually instilled in them, too. Good luck to you and your hubs on coming to an agreement!

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    1. Thank you, Heather. I do think of myself as "level-headed"!

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  10. My son (13) has been desperate to get into modeling and acting and singing (putting off right now since he's in the middle of the voice change) since forever. He's beautiful. He's got talent and an ear for music. But I look around and I see so much dysfunction. Paul Newman and his wife are the ONLY long-term famous married couple I can think of. I want Noah to live a "Normal" life. I don't want paparrazi and an asshole attitude and a plethora of girlfriends in his wake.

    But I also want him happy.

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  11. I don't have any kids so I can hardly offer advice in that capacity, but speaking for myself, I think I would only have wanted to do modelling or acting as a child if I expressed an interest in it. I'm not sure if I would have been very happy if my parents had me do it when I was too young to say if it was what I wanted.

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    1. Yes, I know. She is too young to express an interest in it!

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  12. I don't see anything wrong with children acting, modeling, singing. If she enjoys it... let her do it. It's a rough industry but, maybe Dad can help. Once she stops being interested, then I wouldn't push it.
    She was so stinkin' cute in that commercial!!
    -Ellen

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  13. No advice, but she was gorgeous in that commercial, you must have been proud :)

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  14. You might be putting the cart before the horse here. One commercial doesn't equal a life broken by the misery of child acting. But she is awfully cute I will admit.

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    1. Actually, I'm more worried about the auditions and the jobs themselves than her becoming famous.

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  15. I think if both parents are supportive of a child choosing to participate or NOT participate in that life as she gets older and can make those decisions, and both are willing to keep it real for her and be real with her and point out things behind the curtain, then it can be a great. I'm not saying this well, but I guess I'm saying as long as the parents aren't living through the kid and are doing what they can to keep the child grounded and nurtured and knowing that self worth doesn't hinge on getting the part, then the experience and $$ to bank can be awesome.

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    1. Yeah, I certainly wouldn't be living through her.

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  16. You're right - she did have the money shot at the end! Very cute. I think the fact that your husband is an actor and you are not actually makes the decision EASIER. Those positives that your husband sees will help him to guide her in the right direction as jobs are chosen and you not being in the business will help her to stay grounded. I think the important thing is WHICH jobs are chosen. If you think of the plight of Lindsay Lohan and even others who aren't as pitiful (but close in my opinion) like Miley Cyrus, you had parents who were living off the fame of their children and had their own twisted personal agenda. That is not the case here. I would continue on the road to teaching those core values that are important and allow this "opportunity" in limited amounts as she grows up. Ultimately, children do grow up and choose their own paths and if she had chosen this path simply by virtue of the fact that her father is an actor, she will at least have some experience behind her.

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    1. She will definitely be taught the core values, for sure!

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  17. I think having parental guidance is the important thing too. There are lots of examples of well-adjusted child actors and teenagers. But I think that it's critical that you know that there are risk factors that she might get exposed to. Is there any way that she could get a "mentor" in the industry who is maybe a little bit older (but not her dad) and has experience with navigating these issues?

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    1. She will have parental guidance; that is true.

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  18. Raising a child in the acting arena can go either way, depending on how you, as parents, handle it. My cousin's children (3) were all into serious modeling gigs and one actually acted in several movies, appeared on the Jay Leno Show, etc. We were certain they would all become famous stars one day. But you know what? The parents really kept their acting success low key--they still emphasized normalcy in the house (doing your homework, getting grounded if you didn't do your chores, etc.). As the kids grew older, they each decided for themselves that they didn't want jobs in the acting field--now they are all doctors and nurses! I know Claire is too young to make those decisions for herself, but you could look at it as a way to save money for her college education--that is how all 3 of my cousin's kids were able to get their degrees and become the professionals they are today. Just something to think about ....

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    1. That's the thing. I wish she could decide. She's too young right now.

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  19. I think I would err on the side of fun. If Claire is finding the experience fun then go for it and bank the college money. But if it is stressing you/her out then it is not worth the future therapy bills.

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  20. I think as long as you & Hubs, the parents, keep your heads on straight, then she has a good chance of doing the same. There are tons of examples out there of child actors going bat-crap crazy, but that's probably because the media doesn't give a whitt about the ones who DON'T go crazy.

    Maybe with a healthy dose of your husband's "curtain pulling back" and your caution, this can be something she really enjoys.

    I read a book as a pre-teen that was a fiction story about just this issue, and I can't remember the title now - but it was a healthy look at a girl who happened to star in a commercial and how it affected her & her family.

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    1. I can only hope it makes for a good combination!

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  21. The video spot is awesome. :)

    I don't know the pros and cons of child acting enough to offer an informed opinion.

    I do wish you well with coming to a mutual decision.

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  22. First congrats on her commercial! I think this is just another parenting issue. If she has good, supportive parents she can get through anything. Those child actors who have problems usually have parents that are using them to get stardom for themselves. Good, responsible, parents who are trying to teach their children every day are more likely to raise a child actor who is a really good person.

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    1. Yes, there is no shortage of parenting issues!

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  23. I was debating about commenting but then thought of an example that may help. I knew a family with two kids who acted. One was in a HUGE blockbuster when young and the other was on a TV show for a long time. The father was also an actor, although not famous.

    The mom...a sixth grade school teacher, then and now. She is completely down-to-earth and grounded and the kids seem to be doing well now that they are older. One has graduated from college, I think the other is enrolled and I believe they are both still acting.

    I think the advice and insight from others above is great too.

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  24. What a cutie your daughter was in that commercial! As far as the "big question", I think you have some great feedback here. I'm a parent of competitive athlete,gymnastics, and trust me, I've worried where this will take us. But the most important thing I think we can do for our children is be present and involved. Whether they act, play sports, sing, or do nothing, our job is to help guide them along the way. We are meant to give them the tools necessary to succeed and be well-rounded. I think as long as you continue to give her advice and encouragement, and set real boundaries, she will be fine. Good luck to you!

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    1. You are right. There are many other arenas that are similar.

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  25. Oh that is a tough one. I'd say that since your husband is an actor, there is really no way to avoid having your daughter exposed to the industry. I think the key will be how you both react and what you expect of her. There are thousands of child actors and models, the ones with crazy parents end up crazy. The ones with down to earth and sensible parents who are active and involved in their child's life end up fine. The key is good parenting, which I think you both already have under control!

    Thank you so much for sharing at the Oh What a HAPPY Day party.

    Holly at Not Done Growing

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  26. I found you thru So What Wednesday only I don't see your So What Wednesday post? Am I missing it somewhere??

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  27. The commercial is very cute! She did a great job, Rachel.

    You guys have the connections and you worked them and that's wonderful!

    I really do think you and your hubby will make a great decision.

    Personally, my hubby and I have said no acting/no modeling...period. True even if we live in a cardboard box - but that is our decision. We have decided that our kids will not work for our lively hood or otherwise.

    I'm not sure I can think of one child star that has come out ok - but these are the big stars I'm talking about. I remember watching an interview with MacCalley Culkin (not sure how to spell his name) - and he said it was the fact that you are cute as kids and not so cute as an adult. He can't get a role - and that made him depressed and turn to things that aren't right.

    However, I think if the parents are strong and not so much "pressure" then maybe you can prevent that?

    I don't know.

    It's one commercial, right? It was fun and the money was good. It's not a contract. Maybe you guys have some time to think it over and discuss.

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    1. Also, just one more thing. Just because your husband is an actor, doesn't mean she has to be. My husband is a Chemist - and I certainly don't expect my children to be Chemists - unless they want to be one.

      You know.

      It's good to have well rounded kids. :). Just a thought.

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    2. I'm not worried about her becoming an actress. I'm worried about the auditions and jobs themselves.

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  28. She's a star!And she's so flippin adorable! A money shot she did have....OK, to the conversation at hand - I think it all depends on how the children are raised, the values they hold and the character that is built within them. We can all try and guide our children to certain areas of lifelong careers, but, we must be realistic and know that while the experience of an avenue is great stuff, expecting our kids to fall in love with it will only break our little hearts. Your daughter is still so very young and you and your hubby have lots of time to talk & think this over.
    Blessings,
    Christy

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  29. I think that there is no greater calling in life than to be a parent and you are awesome! Your daughter is lovely and brought a lot of life to that commercial. I've seen it and have commented on the cute baby. :) It was a wonderful opportunity and perhaps one you may want to revisit again. I think at her age it is a little soon for your husband to say she should pursue an acting career. To me that is his wish not hers. This isn't to say it wont be her wish. It very well could be in a few years. I think I would rather take an opportunity here and there if you choose. I have seen lots of moms devote a lot of time in their children's careers and really do live their life through them, because they have no time for their own life any more. At the very least it is a much easier trade off when you know it is your child's dream and not your spouses. Big decision. My husband and I face family decisions in this way. If we do not agree, we do not do it. This has been hard because one of the things we didn't agree on was having another child, but you have to be both in if something is going to work. As far as the crazy parents bring out crazy kids. Not always. There have been plenty of great parents and kids and the kids can still go nuts. Hollywood is crazy itself.

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    1. I know. I don't think it is her choice right now.

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  30. Hello! We joined the blog hop group on The Wondering Brain's blog, and it has been so fun to visit blog after blog after blog! You have an adorable blog and a great layout. Woohoo! Congrats on the cool Super Bowl commercial! She totally stole the show and is SO adorable.
    We're your new fans! Feel free to check out our blog if you have time.

    Cayla and Ashley
    caylaandashley.blogspot.com

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  31. I think you have a very realistic take on all of this- so I think that you and your husband would be able to keep her grounded if she continues in the acting world. And what a cutie, btw! ;)

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  32. Don't you wish you had a crystal ball? To know which way it would go based on the choice you made? Ah, life would be simpler, but not so interesting. I think I agree with Kerri to let her do it so long as it's fun. When you find she's bored and/or tired of it, you'll know. And you're not the pushy broad that would make her do it. What does your heart tell you?

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