Mama’s Got the Dance Class Blues
When my daughter started her first dance class a few months ago, I had no idea what kind of dance mom I’d be. Would I morph into one of those crazy, pathetic, horribly hellicopter-ing ladies on the Lifetime show, cracking the whip so she’d become the next Mikhail Baryshnikov, my childhood (and adult) hero? No, but what happened over the last few months turned out to be just as weird and surprising.
My initial Twilight Zone moment took place before her first class. Upon entering the school, I was hit with a tidal wave of déjà vu, but with a twist. For more than a decade, I was the dancer, with my mom bringing me to class twice a week. I half expected to look down and find a Ring Ding or Twinkie wrapper magically appear in my hand, all crumpled up. Instead, I was wiping the crumbs of Starbucks pumpkin bread off my daughter’s mouth. How did I blink my eyes and become the parent in this equation?
Then there was the social aspect of a kids’ dance class. Not for her, but for me. After dropping the little ones off, the other parents and I were left staring at each other for 50 minutes. Each week, I was overcome with what felt like junior high school social anxiety. Will the other moms want to chat? Should I bring work to do? Two moms and I quickly experienced a major case of stranger-in-the-plane phenomenon, sharing details of our lives that not even our close friends know about. This took place while the token dad of the group tapped away on his laptop and glared at us. I’m pretty sure he would have chosen to swallow broken glass rather than listen to us chirp away.
All of this messiness pales in comparison, though, to what occurred before and during the recital. Oh, the recital. Little did I know when I ordered the bright big-bird yellow leotard with the sparkly silver feathery beak hat that I was in for such trouble. And not with my daughter, who was fine. Again, I was the one with the problem.
I must be missing the dance recital excitement gene. I just couldn’t get into it. Sure, during dress rehearsal at the school I thought she looked adorable. I was really proud when she was chosen by her teacher as the student who most embodies the spirit of dance. But for some reason the thought of her recital made me want to flee far, far away to a land that did not have, did not even understand, the concept of children’s dance recitals.
But I had no choice. This past Friday, I took her to the next dress rehearsal, this time at an auditorium where the recital was to be held the following day. The chaos was even worse than I had feared. Hundreds of kids and parents were trying to squeeze through throngs upon throngs of kid-parent duos who had already finished their run-throughs. I’ve never seen so many sequins, tutus, and Louis Vuitton purses in one place. After wrestling with a pack of hip hoppers and trampling a bunch of three-year-olds in plastic rain caps, the kid and I made it to the auditorium, where we encountered – you guessed it – yet more chaos. Finally, after an hour, she danced her three minutes on stage and we were outta there.
While I dreamed of accidentally “forgetting” to show up on Saturday, I put on my happy dance face for the kid. When we got to the recital space the next day, the chaos from the previous day had been replaced by giddiness, bouquets of flowers, and parents and grandparents dressed in outfits that you’d expect to see at a semi-formal wedding. Oh shit. Why had I decided to wear flip-flops?
Hubby and I dropped off our daughter in the gymnasium waiting area. “Will you be in the front where I can see you?” asked the little one nervously before we left. “I’ll do my best,” I replied, thinking of how our seats were in the nosebleed section since I’d been too much of a slacker to buy them right when they went on sale. “But if I can’t, just know that I’m still there, looking down and feeling very, very proud.” I felt like Mufasa in the Lion King before he was shoved into the herd of wildebeests.
For the first half of the show, hubby and I actually semi-enjoyed watching all of the kids perform and their parents preen. But the whole time I worried about my kid. What would happen if she looked down in front of the stage and I wasn’t there? No other parents were rushing the stage. Should I?
After another two acts, I spied a couple of empty seats in the second row downstairs, stage left. I grabbed hubby’s arm and we made a run for the stairs. We had to get past the first line of defense, the ticket takers, who were standing outside the doors below. Would I let them stop me from being there for my daughter, who needed me? No way! I breezed through, giving them a confident smile while ignoring their entreaties for our tickets. Phew! Past the first barricade, I wondered if the seats would still be free. Yes, they were!
We slipped into our new seats, which were exactly where I’d watched my daughter rehearse the day before. I saw her in the wings, looking nervous and excited. In a flash, she was smack in the middle of the vast stage. The song A Bushel and Peck began, and as she started her routine I saw her eyes dart around anxiously until she saw my encouraging smile right there in front of her. “I love you, a bushel and a peck!/A bushel and a peck, and a hug around the neck!/A hug around the neck, and a barrel and a heap/A barrel and a heap, and I’m talkin’ in my sleep.” Each time the words “I love you” were sung, my daughter put her hands over her heart and then stretched out her fingers to point right at me.
What took place next may come as a huge surprise to you, and it shocked the crap out of me. I started to cry. And it wasn’t a tiny cry. Oh no. What fun would that be? It was a big-time cry, with happy and proud tears streaming down my cheeks. At that moment, I felt so excited for my little girl, so tremendously thrilled that for those three minutes she could experience the magic of being on stage and performing. And I was so proud that I could support her as she develops into a great little kid, one who loves to dance and sing, one who gets grouchy sometimes when I make her take a shower, and one who just needed her mom in front of her has she tackled a new, exciting, and scary experience.
Turns out that I never became the dancer I thought I’d be, but I’m not the dance mom I thought I’d be either. Sure, there’s room for improvement. I’ll need to practice and practice to make the experience more fluid, flexible, and in tune with the other performers in this life-long recital of parenthood I’ve embarked on. But with a little bit of patience and a lot of hard work, I may get there, eventually.
~ By Wendy Widom
The fun pic comes from the Smart Stage Mom Blog.