You Get What You Get And You Don’t Get Upset!



I remember hearing this phrase for the first time while seeing a live-action musical of “Pinkalicious.” You get what you get, and you don’t get upset. “How brilliant,” I thought! What a great adage for helping kids learn to cope with disappointment. Heck, that might work on a few adults I know, too!

And then that little girl snuck out of her room behind her mom’s back and ate the extra pink cupcake, anyway.

Ok, so I guess the phrase doesn’t always work.

This is especially true in my world, where I deal with disappointment every day. I’m an actor living in an industry with an employment rate that consistently hovers at 90 percent.

I’m a theatre director and educator in my other job, meaning that I have to disappoint kids for a living since we all know only one little girl gets to be Elsa in “Frozen Jr.” 

When I was a kid, my acting teacher said, “There are no small parts; only small actors,” he explained to mean that no part is small unless you ALLOW it. Anyone can shine in the ensemble if they are fully committed to their role and smile as brightly as they are allowed to feel.

Too often, however, I find that the problem is that kids aren’t allowed to feel proud of their role if they didn’t get the lead.

This goes with sports and spelling bees and just about every competitive environment, but theatre is my sport, so I’m speaking that language. 

This can happen for a multitude of reasons: a child sets expectations for themselves beyond their skill-set or experience; a child compares the size of their own part with others around them (“Sally has 10 lines and I only have 3”); other kids compare the size of their parts around each other, inevitably leading to hurt feelings; or, and this is the one that saddens me the most, a parent tells their child that they were “robbed” or that they “deserved the part much more than Sally” or “the director obviously has no idea what she’s talking about.”

Now, I have actually had parents ask me to take a role away from another child and give it to their own child. I have had parents tell me that they will cancel their family vacation if their child can have the lead. I have had children tell me that their parents aren’t coming to the show because they “only have a small part.” These are extreme examples, of course, but they happen, and it’s always to the child’s detriment.

Learning to deal with disappointment is an essential coping skill for being a functioning adult. Don’t get upset!

Lord knows that if we all got everything we wanted all of the time, I would be writing this blog from a beach with a personal butler while vacationing with my best friends, the Real Housewives of New York

Even if your child is the next Meryl Streep, they’re still not going to get the lead every single time. There are times when they might be too tall/short/blonde/not blonde enough, or they might be sick on the day of the auditions. It happens. Life doesn’t always go your way. Rather than giving in to the cries of “it’s not fair! I deserved that part!” maybe we can hug them and explain that we understand what disappointment is. Give them an example of a time that we faced disappointment. Let them be sad. Sadness and disappointment go hand in hand.

But then let’s also boost them up and show them that being in the ensemble, or even playing “The Tree” (which is what happens to Fancy Nancy when she auditions for “The Mermaid Ballet!”) is going to be an enjoyable experience. Resist the urge to tell them that they deserved the role over someone else’s child, who probably worked just as hard as your kid to get the role. 

So “you get what you get, and you don’t get upset” may be an oversimplification. Getting upset is natural, and learning to work through those emotions is healthy.

Maybe the Rolling Stones hit the nail on the head: “You can’t always get what you want/ But if you try sometimes, well you just might find/ You get what you need.”

And let’s be honest, nobody needs that extra pink cupcake.  


  1. All of this so true! I suspect I will soon be a “theatre Grammy ” and this is the message I want to bring to the experience for my grand babies, one of whom at age 3 1/2 is already saying “someday I want to play Elsa”. She loved her dance recital so much too, and that is another great experience to remember that it’s all about the teamwork, the storytelling, and the process.

    Great Post! No surprise that you are an excellent writer along with everything else you rock 🙂


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