The Best Ballet Recital Ever

The best ballet recital I’ve ever attended and will likely ever attend, is over.

When my daughter turned 3, she begged every day as she did twirls and jumps in the air that almost resembled spinning karate kicks,

“Mommy?  Can I do bawwet?  I really, really wanna do bawwet!  Just like June!”

June, most of us are aware, is the graceful, red-shod, diminutive Little Einstein ballerina character that teaches our kids how to do échappés and arabesques to escape menacing boulders and other forms of impending doom.

I had done ballet as a kid.  I wasn’t very good at it.  My gracefulness never improved.  I never had an overt aversion to ballet so I didn’t have any reservations about her wanting to try it.  If she were to become serious later in her years, I guess I’d have to be on high alert for signs of body image issues, eating disorders or neurotic competitiveness.

But, she was 3.  She was asking to try something.   And, I thought she would look adorable in a leotard and tights.

Of course, she did.


We learned quickly that dance attire, if you bought it at a dance store, was very expensive. It was 10 to 20 dollars per pair of pink tights.  She put holes in those tights every week.  I quit trying to show up in un-holey tights.  Those holes were my daughter’s trademark.

And, if I am honest, I thought those holes in her knees were beautiful.  They were a juxtaposition when she put on that stiff baby pink tutu during class.  They were proof that my daughter was rugged and adventurous.  I loved those holes in her tights.

Something happened, though.  About six months after she started to go to ballet once a week, she would tell me that she didn’t want to go anymore.  The studio was great.  The instruction was great.  The instructors were gentle and great.  She said she just didn’t like it.

Every week was a battle.  I bribed and I coaxed.  I had pre-paid for a recital outfit that wasn’t for another four months.  We had paid for the month.  That was a good amount of cash in the trash.  We’d just finish out the month.  “Get in the car!  Let’s go!”  And, she’d go.  She’d get in the car after I battled with her to get her ballet outfit on.  We’d get there, and she’d refuse to get out.

I am a firm believer that Mahatma Ghandi developed his philosophy of passive non-resistance by watching toddlers.  The emulating hippies in the Vietnam era whose limp bodies were static weight bags for the police officers struggling to move them resemble toddlers at their best moments of recalcitrance.

When I’d try to remove her from her car seat, she’d just slump in a way that made it hard for me to get a grip. Once, I got her out of the car, she’d lay like a wet noodle in the parking lot.  I would have tried dragging her, but I thought it might be hard to explain the road rash to friends.

After two weeks of having the ballet teacher come out and beg her to come inside for 15 minutes of the hour I’d already paid for, I decided it was enough.  We weren’t coming back.  If I’m completely honest, the money excuse was an easy one for me to defend as a reason for not wanting my daughter to quit something she had started.

I believe I struggled with the thought that my daughter was starting to quit things early. At what age are we supposed to tell a kid to suck it up until they’re through with a commitment?  Would I be making a mistake to not force her to complete the task of finishing the recital so she could feel the pride of completion?  Or would the mistake be forcing her to waste precious childhood hours doing something she detested?  Either way, we’d adore her.  But, which was the right way?

I remember taking piano lessons as a kid.  I never asked to take them.  My parents bought a piano and for six years, I went once a week to lessons.  I practiced every single day for one hour.  I became decent at it, graduating to some moderately complex Sonatinas by the time I reached 14 and my parents told me that I could choose whether I wanted to stick with it or not.

By then, I resented the tick of the metronome I’d listened to every day for six years.  I quit.  Sometimes, now in my thirties, I wish I hadn’t.  I wish I could play the piano like a concert pianist.  Was this ballet struggle the same dilemma faced by my parents, just with a much lighter and considerably less expensive pair of ballet shoes?

It didn’t take me long to determine that she was, in fact, three whole years old.  She was someone who committed to eating waffles for breakfast who, after one bite, would change her mind and inform she really wanted Cheerios.

I reminded myself that I had quit things, too.

When I was 14, I quit the piano.  And about a year and a half ago, I quit my job.

That was something I never believed I would ever give up.  It was something I probably judged others for giving up before I came to the precipice of my own “should I work or stay at home?” turmoil.

In the end, I quit and it is a quitting that has brought more happiness than any other period in my life.  Perhaps, quitting is the wrong word.  Perhaps, “changing course to follow a path that is right for you” is the better phrase.  I imagine, for many women, the opposite is true.  Changing their course to go back to work might be the decision that sets the balance right in their heart, spirit and mind.

We put a lot of stigma on the word “quit” in our meritocratic society.

But, I’ve come to believe, in my very wise and often pedantic thirties, that sometimes quitting is the best way to reach one’s true potential.  (Please, please detect the sarcasm in that statement.  I do not actually believe I have a single answer to life’s dilemmas.  I’m just exploring here.)

So, we packed away the leotards and the holey pink tights, and she told me she really, really wanted to do gymnastics.  That has stuck.  At least for now. And, if it changes.  I guess we’ll deal with that if it comes.

I got a call about four months after we quit ballet from the studio.  Our recital outfit was in and could we pick it up?  The recital had actually taken place the week prior in a massive lit auditorium full of illegal photographic flashes and beaming parents.

I drove up to the studio, picked up the garbage bag that held the lime green sequined ballet outfit inside with matching wristlets and hair scrunchy.

I took it home and showed my daughter.

It took her breath away.  We put it on, at once.

Then, we went into the front yard, and I received the best ballet recital I could have ever seen in my entire life.

It was full of uncompelled joy and spirit.  Her leaps and jumps were happy and full.  She played with leaves and wiggled her rear parts.  She smiled throughout and giggled in a way that confirmed that there were no other decisions than the ones we made.  She was beautiful.  This was perfect.

Maybe quitting something we feel is not right in our hearts, for whatever reason, can lead us to our very best performances.

When I watched my little girl dance, I felt like I was dancing with her, and through her.








Have I ever doubted our decisions to move on?

Does June wear holey pink tights?

 


32 Responses to The Best Ballet Recital Ever

  1. Starting around 5 years old, I took tap, jazz, ballet, gymnastics, piano, you name it. I took them all and was never allowed to quit. On the way to gymnastics, I actually wished we would get into a car accident so I wouldn’t have to go. And I kept wishing for some sort of terrible illness to get out of swim practice, where I spent my entire childhood every single day of the year – even in the middle of winter at 6:00 a.m. in an outdoor pool. (Okay, okay, I lived in California, but it was still ice cold!) I think that gave me the strength to get through things I absolutely hated as an adult. It’s what older generations would call “character building,” I suppose.

    I can see now what my parents were trying to do. Especially since I wasn’t that athletic of a kid and who knows how uncoordinated and unfit I would be today if it weren’t for all those lessons.

    But I haven’t figured out now whether I will do the same for my own kids. I don’t want them feeling as miserable as I did. On the other hand, maybe it will toughen them up. Who knows. Not me. Not yet.

    But quitting my job: that was one of the best decisions! I love being a quitter :-)

    • I definitely agree that we can’t let our kids off the hook all the time- Learning that you can push past the limits you’ve got in your head is a huge lesson that allows us to dream and achieve bigger things. This is another toughie. :) I want my kids to be happy and to thrive- but if it means sitting in front of video games or on Facebook their entire childhood and teen years, I think I’ll be a tyrant. haha! I’m so glad you enjoy your SAHM time! I love it, too!!!

  2. I really, really love this. I think you should have shirts made for mom’s that say, I didn’t quit. I changed course to follow a path that was right for me.

    Brilliant. XOXO

    • I hadn’t thought of putting that on a shirt. Good idea! haha! But, I think it is so true. I’ve seen and heard folks say negative things about women who gave up their jobs to stay home- like they wasted their degree or their network or their experience. But, I think those are the things that give us ultimate freedom and are the testament to where feminism has brought us women. We chose to do those things so that we could stand on our own two feet if we had to or wanted to. And we choose to do this now to care for our kids. We can always go back. And it’s not a waste. It’s all being re-invested in our children so they can grow and, I hope, have the same freedom to learn, achieve, and make their own choices. :) Off my soap box. :)

      • I totally agree with this. I am a working mom. It is a choice that I have made for my family and I refuse to criticize moms who have different choices than mine. For us, I work and so does my husband because we both have jobs we are passionate about. We are able to work the same shift, so our time outside of work is spent together as a family. Feminism, to me, is about choices. We should not criticize one another for making the choices that work for our families.

        • Thanks, Marian! Working and Not Working are such personal choices and none of us which variables are at work so we really should never judge a decision- Having worked, though- my hat’s off to you- Being a SAHM is tough and so is being a working mom. Where one area gives, the other doesn’t. Thanks for your thoughts!!!

    • Thanks, ang- I’ll play with the watermarks. I agree with your email- they take away from the photos- but I just know they’ll end up on another bot site with no attribution- and those are images of my daughter- well, her legs. :)

  3. I quit, too, over three years ago, and it was the best decision I ever made. It’s not all cherries and roses, over here where every day is completely devoid of meetings but filled to overflowing with children. But it is good, fulfilling, satisfying work. I wish I had remembered that when my daughter (and I!!!!) suffered through three seasons of soccer (which she hated) because she “reeeeelly, reeellly, reeellly wants to play!”. Lesson learned :)

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  5. I just cried my eyes out at the sheer truth and beauty of your words.

    You’re right — she’s three years old. I’m a firm believer in children living with the consequences of their actions. And when my 4 1/2 year old changes his mind about what he wants for breakfast after one mouthful, I patiently remind him that he’s got exactly what he asked for, and he’ll have to eat it. When I tell him that if he tips his building blocks all over the floor he’ll have to clean them up when he’s finished, he’s darn well going to do it, regardless of how “exhausted” he claims to be.

    But he’s a child. Consequences, resolutions, and commitments that last beyond the next month, or week, or (occasionally) ten minutes are so far beyond his comprehension that the lesson becomes meaningless. My son barely remembers that last week existed. He certainly doesn’t remember what he really, really, really, really desperately wanted six months ago.

    And, regardless of age, I think it’s important to let people know that actively choosing another path when your own isn’t working isn’t the same as passively giving up. It’s a decision. It’s a choice. It’s not a sign of strength to live in a way that you hate. It’s a sign of strength to make a positive change to your life when you’re unhappy.

    More kids need to learn that lesson.

    So do more adults.

    You’re a fabulous mother and a great human being. You have my respect. (And, now, my silence as I stop rambling on in your comments.)

    • Jo, we struggled with our decisions on how to handle our kids’ constantly changing minds- We come rigid professions and we certainly didn’t want to breed “quitters”. I think that’s why this post was so special for me because it shows a moment where my daughter became my teacher. Thank you for your thoughts on the adult quitting of things- I look at it as a choice- a very hard one- but I am so glad I found the strength to make it. Thank you for the kindest of words you use to describe the type of mom and human being I am- I think you are top-notch,Jo- I am so honored you choose to follow my blog. So very honored.

  6. She hasn’t quit: the seed was planted. Don’t be surprised if she auditions for the dance line at her school’s Spring Showcase when she’s in fifth grade. That’s what I did, anyway.

    I love how you wrestle with yourself. Makes me feel I’m not the only one who does it.

    • haha, Nami- wouldn’t that be ironic!!! I hope we all wrestle with ourselves- If we didn’t, that would mean we all know exactly what we’re doing- and I know that’s not possible. haha!

  7. Oh this is just a beautiful post! I’m so happy I read it, as we have been having similar questions this year about extracurricular programs for our daughter. Thank you for sharing, this is a wonderful reminder of what childhood is all about! (And I just LOVE those pictures!)

    • Mama Pea Pod- I think we all struggle with these questions. I hope that folks can relate to the material- I wish the photos didn’t come out as blurry as they do- the originals are much more beautiful, but the watermark lessens the resolution somewhat….thank you so much for you sweet words!

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  9. This is beautiful. Loved the story, the truthfulness behind it. Your writing and the part where you share how your little one danced with joy and passion (toward the end)brought a smile to my face.
    I love your writing style. I’ve told this before I know. have to say again, each time I read a post like this :)

  10. Happy New Year! I love your story. Sometimes it is so hard to know how much to encourage our kids to keep trying an activity. I’m glad you were sensitive not to push too hard. I love the pictures you caught of her dancing

    • Meaghan- I had to figure it out. There were times leading up to our decision that I felt a lot like a Tiger Mom- and it didn’t sit right with me. Thank you so much for visiting and for your nice words!

  11. Such an uplifting story. Some of the best things in my life have happened because I quit something else. And, I wish I could get away with wearing that outfit!!

    I am working my way through the Facebook We Blog group. That’s where I found you, though I’ve seen your comments on other blogs I read. I am getting forward to getting to know you through this group. Happy New Year!

    • Andra- thanks so much for checking my blog out- I can’t wait to read yours, too! So glad you found our group and thanks for your kind thoughts!!!

  12. I loved your story. I can relate to the wet noodle. My son (age 4) loved music and rhythm so I signed him up for Kindermusic and we went along find. One day he said “No, I’m not going in”. I drug him in the building and he lay in the hall. His younger sister went in, but not him. After several attempts I gave up. It wasn’t for him. (There was a lot of sitting and listening, not moving.) I’m happy to say he played the trumpet 5th-12th grade and is now in marching band in college. Not all programs are created equal and sometimes the kids’ know what is best for them. We just need to listen.

    • Kerry- thanks so much for the comment! I’m learning to listen to my kids. So funny that your son found his own way- it just shows us that they are our teachers and not always the other way around. :)

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