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From the Homefront: The inherent danger of childhood fame

The year was 1985. A mom and dad sat at the kitchen table having a serious discussion.They had a young son who seemed to have remarkable musical ability. Some might have called him a piano prodigy. The discussion was over what to do with that talent: usher him into a world of intense instruction in hopes of tours and fame, or let him be?In the end, after weighing the pros and cons, they made a landmark decision to do absolutely nothing. Let him play the piano, progressing at his own pace. Let him love music. Let him be a kid.That decision, made by my parents, set the stage for how our family life would play out. There would have other kids with gifts in language, science and theater. (No, I wasn't one of them.) But instead of thrusting us onto the bigger stage of life, we did a lot of performing on the ledge in front of the fireplace. Our vast audience was my mom and dad, always supportive, the grandest cheering section around.There is such an insatiable appetite for fame these days, especially for our children. We hear about the latest child star, dancing, singing, acting her way into stardom. There are game shows for the super geniuses. Acting classes, modeling classes, ballet lessons, and pee-wee football teams promise to usher our children straight into the spotlight.I hear about these young stars who make it big and I just watch and wait. Within years the news is splashed with headlines of them falling into drugs, eating disorders or teen pregnancy."What could possibly have gone wrong?" the media always ask. What went wrong is these kids weren't allowed to be kids. And they spend the rest of their life trying to reclaim that lost childhood.I hear what the parents say: "Oh, but he just loves to perform." (Or play baseball, or travel the world on a bus, singing.)Yes, that is probably true. Kids love to eat candy for breakfast, too, but that doesn't mean it's what is best for them. I'm not sure fame at any age is a good idea, but for children, who are still trying to find their footing, it is especially detrimental: to stand in front of a crowd that fawns over you, to be told you are so beautiful, smart, fast, or talented over and over. Feeling the pressure to perform is too much.And yet so many parents get lured into the trap. There is this inescapable pull. I know because I've felt it, too, that moment when you realize your child has a special gift: He knew "Cat in the Hat" word-for-word after just one reading! Call in the networks! She has a great arm for softball! He can multiply fractions in his head, and he is still in diapers! She can paint like Monet! He sings with perfect pitch!Oh, yes, the temptation is certainly there. But in the end, whose ego are we satisfying? What exactly is the motive behind putting our children center stage?I once heard a BYU religion professor talk about Christ's life, focusing on his childhood. Besides the brief account of Jesus getting left behind in Jerusalem after Passover, we have only one verse that sums up the first 30 years of his life: "And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man" (Luke 2:52).Why only one verse? The professor's opinion was that God wanted to give Jesus, who would grow to be the Savior of mankind, the most normal childhood he could. He wanted to protect him and allow him to mature the way children should.It's an example we would be good to follow. Yes, we are given talents for a reason. Yes, we shouldn't hide them under a bushel or bury them in the ground. But we should let our children grow and mature the way children should. My brother is still, in my opinion, a brilliant musician. He has a bright music career ahead of him. And, thanks to my parents, a perfectly normal, well-paced childhood behind him.