“I have found the best way to give advice to your children is to find out what they want and then advise them to do it.”—Harry S. Truman had this to say about adults in training during an interview with his daughter, Margaret Truman (27 May 1955).
As parents, we spend a great deal of time telling our offspring what is best for them-without ever asking them first. This explains why many are frustrated with the honor bestowed upon them to be parents. It’s interesting: Intelligent mothers and fathers all over the world have convinced themselves that they must work harder than their child in identifying what they will do with the life they have come to the planet to live.
In 2007 I was a defeated artist (I have an acting degree, am an author, playwright and screenwriter) working as a substitute teacher, a wife and mother of two truly amazing children (Nia and Spence II). I enjoyed substitute teaching because that’s what you’re supposed to say when you get to work with children. For all intents and purposes life was pretty good.
Then the sky fell when my mom called to announce she was sick, scared and needed me to come support her through doctor’s visits and a series of tests. Everything in my life came to a screeching halt but I was about to be moved in ways I never expected.
After three months of biopsies, hospitals and late night internet searches they had a diagnosis and treatment plan for my modern-day Wonder Woman. My mom was going to have to take some pretty intense medications but she would live. I left Ohio heading back to Cali with my young children in tow. I noticed I did not feel as relieved as I thought I would. This life shift had generated a stirring deep within- A spark where my light had burned out.
This cosmic slap upside my head was my life calling. This may sound anti-climactic but it is noteworthy because I had forgotten the sound of my own “voice” after suppressing, squelching and satiating my natural gifts in the name of being a good mother. I donned many other hats (but never the hat that actually fit my head) because I thought I should pursue more practical interests. After all, being a starving artist is not noble when you are raising children. I was “supposed to” have a sensible occupation and abandon the longings of my muse because that’s what mother’s do. I told myself being a parent forces you to relinquish your right to dream dreams that fall into the “long shot” or “highly competitive” categories. Despite, the gentle divine nudge to abandon this logic of conditioning, I chose to return home to fulfill the life I thought made sense—life without my artistic self in it.
One morning, I woke up with a pain in my heart. This was not a myocardial infarction but I was in full cardiac protest. In that moment when I was sure I would die, my ten-year-old son walked into the room and said something that would change my life for good: “I want to be on television so I can make people laugh.”
His words hit me like the electrical charge of an AED. He wants to act. My first thought was sheer terror as he had no idea of the rejection waiting for him. My next thought was that despite my attempt to model a practical life for him, he was showing me that my life must be fully realized in order to model the pursuit of happiness.
That year, my son got an agent, went on several auditions, and then quickly decided football was a better fit for him. He no longer wanted to pursue acting but his brief visit to the fine arts world was enough to get me writing, directing and producing again.
In 2008, between football practices, games, and parent meetings, I managed to write a play that was nominated for an NAACP Theatre Award. I produced another play in 2012, and in 2015 wrote, directed, and produced a short film called MayDay.
In December 2013 my son casually mentioned he was ready to start acting again. I thought maybe I was being Punk’d and expected Ashton Kutcher to jump out of the pantry at any moment. He had been so against it when he hung up his acting shoes for football cleats six years earlier. Why this sudden change? Why now? Why this?
A good friend and working actor encouraged me to support this request and help him find a new agent. In less than a year my son was represented and had landed three national commercials. In 2015, his desire to pursue film and television more vigorously was the impetus for me to develop a script that I had been working on for nearly five years.
MayDay is the story of May Stone, an unapologetic and confident comedienne on the rise. May has slayed audiences all over the country and is standing at the portal of the next level when her life takes an unexpected turn. Jay Scott shows up on her doorstep with a suitcase and unanswered questions that begin to unearth the life she thought she had left behind. This movie, at its core, is about inspired parenting.
As parents, we do the best we can when we are inspired. Our parenting life mission is similar to our personal life mission. Your personal work while you are awake and alive is to connect to your purpose and then do everything to live in that purpose. Your parenting work is to let your child connect to their purpose and then do everything to support them in living that purpose.
My son is the co-star of MayDay. I may have been the director but he led me to meet him where he was as an actor. On the set, I was not his mother; I was there to guide him to honor the character with every word, every movement, and in the pregnant Pinter pauses. The by-product of directing him was that I became the student more than I expected to be the case.
With every beat, he was teaching me to be open. With each word he spoke, he was coaching me to be a good listener. With every new take, he imparted patience and the idea that everything is happening in the time and in the way that it is meant to happen. He was gently informing me that he is in charge of his outcome and that my only role is to chaperone and to support.
In an article titled, “Go Straight for the Joy and Follow Your Purpose,” Martha Beck says:
“There are three ways to be jolted or moved out of the life that’s not working for you. One is shock, which would be your car accident or losing your job or whatever it is. The next one is opportunity. Say, you fall in love and you get a chance to marry your soul mate, but it means changing everything.
And the third is growth; you simply wake up one morning and what satisfied you yesterday is starting to feel empty. And as you grow more and more as a being, you fit less and less into a life that isn’t right for you. You’ll outgrow it like your baby clothes, and then you have a choice to either try to contort yourself back into it or to leave.”
My son shocked me with his declaration that he was ready to act again. We decided as a family and with my production team that we would create our own opportunities and TannLyne Productions and MayDay were born. Lastly, my son grew up and I grew up in the process.
There is a quote in a famous book that says, “…a child shall lead them.” I don’t wish to explore the full context of the words that come before and after this phrase. I only want to confess that my reality was built on a series of thoughts and ideas that seemed conventional and convenient in the name of good parenting. My son, however, led me back to my truth by adamantly living his own.
Watch the trailer of Tann Moore’s movie Mayday below.