Stage Mother

I’m about to put my own child through an experience that I would never wish on a three year old: a full blown dance recital.  I’m not entirely sure how I, a perfectly reasonable and well-informed children’s theatre specialist, managed to get suckered in to it.  Maybe because I’m as susceptible as the next proud parent: I want to see my child be a star.  I want to see her admired. I want to see her succeed. But, at what cost?

Let me back track for a moment:

Do-Bug loves to dance.  So, just after she started school in the fall, I signed her up for tap dance. I purposefully chose both a school and a dance-style that is not considered pre-professional.  Sure, their classes are structured, they have good teachers, and no doubt many of their students go on to continue dance in their adult lives. But they’re not a training ground for the next prima-ballerina.  I wanted Do-Bug to have the chance to just have fun.  She is only three, after all.

My original plan to keep her out of the recital was foiled by the size of the class: there are only five of them. So I caved to my own private dreams of stardom before I even tried to put my foot down.

Now we own a $75 sequined blue tutu which she will wear only once on stage and I waited in line for 2 hours to buy tickets for the family ($20 a pop!).

As it turns out, even those of us who think we know better cave to the delights of creating super-stars. We want our kids to shine, to dazzle. But at what cost?

Two weeks ago, I dressed her up in her costume and hustled her off to the studio for photo-call.   I was ill-prepared to wait so after an hour of it, we’d both had it.  We were hot, tired, thirsty and hungry.  As her classmates were finally ushered into the studio for their photos, our relief became a meltdown.  The tears started and never stopped.  We took off the costume and left in a hurry without having her picture taken.  We wanted out.  We were not having fun.  We were both embarrassed and hungry and miserable.   We were there for fun and didn’t have any.

We won’t make that mistake again.

At three, it’s not about dazzling.  At three, you dazzle no matter what.  Because that’s what three year-olds do.  At three, it’s about fun and being in control of your own destiny.

So, it was with great relief that after her class this week–A tricky class being done in a larger room (closer in size to the actual stage) with more children (the bigger ballerinas who share their dance number)–that her teacher took the time to say “The most important thing is what? Having fun.”

So, in two weeks time, when I am faced with a long week of late-night rehearsals for a very small child, I will pull out the goldfish, the playdough, and the ponies, and we will sit and have fun while we wait for her turn to tap her way through the limelight.

And if she chooses to stand in the wings out of fear, I will still be proud and tell her I love her.  If she chooses to get on stage and forgets all her steps, I will still be proud and tell her I love her.  If she walks into the spotlight and starts tapping her tiny feet to her own singular rhythm, I will still be proud and tell her I love her.  It’s her time to choose, and I will support that with the best of my stage mothering ability.

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