As a little girl, I longed to be a dancer. I loved the lithe beauty of the prima ballerinas and, although it was genetically impossible for it to happen, I longed to develop into the emaciated, willowy forms required to land a spot in the corps of Ballet West. As I grew, I realized that my short and curvaceous form would never make it into the realms of what was required. Therefore, I found other forms of dance with which I fell in love.
There were classes several times a week, required classroom uniforms for each, special dance shoes depending on the class, extra rehearsals for recitals, dress rehearsals, all day staging rehearsals. On and on and on it went. I remember that we used to drive forty-five minutes, each direction, several times weekly to go to my dance studio for classes, which usually lasted just over an hour. Having driven there so many times, I remember actually being able to lie in the back seat with my eyes closed and know exactly where we were by how many turns in each direction we had made. And when I hit high school, dance practice was a daily occurrence – early morning, afternoon, night and some weekends spent dancing in the school auditorium, gym and dance room.
As my sister grew up, she was enlisted in the dance regime. Then there were two of us to support, two dance class schedules to keep straight, two complete sets of unique uniforms. Then my brother grew up and I am sure he thought he was going to be roped into dance too. He had lived in the dance studio his whole life, so he could have probably pulled it off quite gracefully. However, dad had other inclinations for his son and baby brother joined a community soccer team practically as soon as he could walk. He became as proficient in soccer as his sisters were in dance.
As you can imagine, the scheduling was insane. Dad coached the soccer team. Mom participated in the parenting teams at the dance studios. The two of them, I imagine, felt stretched really thin between all the appointments, as well as working enough to meet all the expenses. Through it all, they never showed any frustration or distress regarding scheduling or expenses. I remember my parents sitting on the edge of their seats watching my sister and me or running along the sidelines of my brother’s games. They were interactive, alert and… well… seemingly happy to be there. Either that or they faked it real good!
I am grown now, with a daughter of my own who is trying on different dance techniques, as well. Now it is my turn to sit in the dance studio, which is only a moments drive from where I work and my daughter goes to school. The dance studio which my daughter attends is, apparently, one of the oldest and most renowned in the city. It is not as if it is just some random upstart without a reputation. It is the best – and lest you think I am bragging, it was her stepmother that picked the studio and was all excited about this adventure, not me.
In the beginning of this adventure, which started four years ago, I actually found myself groaning and moaning about the whole deal. First off, my daughter wasn’t really into it and had only started because her little sister wanted to try it out. My former husband thought it would be great for the two of them. I wasn’t excited and felt a guilty rush whenever I selfishly thought about all I was giving up to support this endeavor. Then I would remember all that my parents had done for me and I would chastise myself, wondering when I had become a lousy parent.
I began watching the other parents while I sat in the studio, waiting for my daughter to finish her one dance class that lasts only an hour. I see parents that actually shove their daughters through the barely opened door without saying “goodbye” or “have fun” as they bark into their cell phones and rush back to the SUV. Or I see bedraggled young girls shuffling in and dragging their dance bags and coats behind them without their hair fixed, wearing dingy and torn dance clothes. Some parents are yanking their girls by the hand and arguing with them the whole way. Some of the girls frown the entire way through the class and are disrespectful to the teachers. The parents that actually wait in the chilly lobby are complaining and grumbling. What in the world has happened???
There is one mother who is there long before I get there and leaves long after we leave. Her daughter takes eight classes every week. Eight! She is the only mother who is not grumbling and her daughter is one girl who looks like she wants to be there, as does my daughter. Thank heavens, this year my daughter loves her dance class – tap. I think she loves it because it is noisy and fast and far from the strict nature of the ballet classes from her first two years. She enjoys it so much she actually stays after class for a half hour while the teacher shows some of them more advanced steps. She loves it and, therefore, I am finding joy in it too.
Maybe I’m not a lousy parent after all.