Moms Need to Play Simon on American Idol

Birmingham Moms have had the pleasure of watching two of our hometown boys, Ruben Studdard and Taylor Hicks, become winners on American Idol. We’ve even had hometown a runner-up, Helena’s Bo Bice.

Perhaps we’ve been spoiled by an abundance of local talent, because the first tryout shows of the season are almost too painful to watch. It’s obvious when a singer is being set up for ridicule, yet the singers never seem to realize they are the butt of the joke. They stomp out defiantly, vowing to never abandon their dreams despite the informed consensus of industry experts.

No matter how gently they are told to pursue another vocation, they seem incredulous that their singing ability, so apparent in the shower, isn’t regarded as a sensation. I always wonder: Didn’t your mama ever tell you that you can’t sing???

We moms have obligations. We should expose our kids to a variety of opportunities to explore their interests. We should encourage them to develop their talents, support them through unavoidable setbacks, and redirect them when necessary. We should never give up on them as individuals. But we should tell them when it’s time to get real, like when they want to take their tin ear to Hollywood.

Maybe it’s the moms themselves who can’t acknowledge a talent gap. There are probably voice coaches and stage directors all over town who would confirm this is a common phenomenon. The stage mom is as legendary as the diva. (Speaking of divas, why does anyone attempt a Whitney, Mariah or Celine song? For everyone’s sake, please ban “I Will Always Love You.” Dolly Parton is just wasting those royalties on more plastic surgery.)

What is the difference between crushing a kid’s dreams and administering a necessary dose of reality? One is cruel and mean-spirited, the other demonstrates loving concern. Should it really take an American Idol judge to tell your kid if singing isn’t his/her gift? Must he/she be humiliated on national TV?*

Moms, maybe there are times to be Simon Cowell and tell it straight, then put a paintbrush or violin in their hands and get behind them 100%.

*Notable exception: William Hung, who rode Idol ridicule to minor celebrity and now sells autographed photos on the web for $9.99 apiece.