We let my teenage daughter drop out of her school's production of the spring play Less than 2 weeks before opening night. I know a lot of people wouldn't agree with that choice and instead make their kids finish out their commitment. I will admit I was really torn between forcing her to stay and letting her quit.
She is a freshman, coming from a middle school experience that didn't afford her a lot of good friends or opportunities to spread her wings. Because of this, she wants to try and do everything, which we don't let her do. But she's also a kid with a fantasy of how things are going to be versus how they really are. Try as I may to talk to her and explain situations, I'm only her mom so I don't really know what I'm talking about and everything I say is just stupid and off-base.
The drama club at her school is serious business. Contracts for students and parents alike to sign, production fees to be paid by every member of the cast and crew, mandatory practices, build days, costume days, and tech week that are 12 hours plus (which I am not even sure the legality in enforcing because minors are limited in amount of paid hours they can work, and this is not even paid work) that every member of the production must adhere to, no matter how big or small your role. It's a little sad because it discourages kids that just want to do it for fun as opposed to kids who want to actually have any of this as some sort of career, and cast are supposed to purchase their own costumes and expensive stage makeup. It's really a racket. Parents are also required to put in a required number of volunteer hours as well. Tickets cost $15 a piece. So there is an extreme amount of time and money required for all involved. You were only allowed to miss one practice for any reason (even illness) and then you were given strict warnings.
Cast also have to keep their grades way up, even during the weeks where practices run from after school until 10pm or later and are mandatory for all involved. The stress was building on my teen, even with us letting her off the hook on her chores and responsibilities at home. When she got the email last week about the next 2 weeks of mandatory 12 hours days and the request for volunteers to stay beyond that for various things, and reading that on performance days you were required to be there the ENTIRE day, meaning more 12 hours days, and between weekend shows you were required to stay at school and not leave campus for any reason she had a total breakdown. She skipped practice and came straight home in tears. Talked to me about everything, she had been thinking and feeling for weeks now. Explained how it was taking something she loved to do and making it the most hated thing ever, keeping her stomach in knots. The director, who is also the drama teacher, turning into a complete Medusa yelling at people about "how behind" they were. My daughter also told me how she needed to get a peer tutor for one of her classes but couldn't because of the play and the practices, and was so upset and stressed couldn't even concentrate in class.
My child cried as if the weight of the world were on her shoulders. I calmly explained that she needed to take a breath and realize that in the grand scheme of things, this decision was small potatos. That it was a highschool play production, and her decision wasn't going to end anyone's life or blow up a country. Sure they might have to shift people around, but she was part of a side ensemble and had no speaking part. She didn't know that it was okay to say it was all too much. She actually was pushing my buttons extra hard and acting out hoping I would pull her out myself, as part of her agreement to us allowing her to sign up was that her home behavior be on the straight and narrow.
We let her quit because as important as it is to follow through on your word and what you sign up and agree to do, it is equally important to be able to recognize and acknowledge when you are in over your head and can't handle something, and ask for help or back out when you need to. She also needed to realize that she could talk to us even if she thought we would be mad or upset with her or not support her decision or validate her feelings. She needed to have this happen.
She also needed to step outside and see how some of the other drama girls reacted to her news, making it all about them and how HER decision affected THEM instead of immediately supporting her and her needs. She was rather surprised by that.
Sometimes quitting isn't the easy way out after all.