As I was walking through the parking lot with my left hand tightly holding Emily’s hand and my right hand clutching Molly’s, people were smiling, laughing, pointing … at us. My two little companions were twisting and kicking and shimmying and attempting unsuccessfully (because of my tight grip on their hands) to spin. My girls are dancers. They dance everywhere. They feel the rhythm of the grocery store and the beat of the parking lot. They’re not hindered by things such as choreography or music – their dances in the produce aisles and parking lots are the stuff of rainbows and wind and starlight and freedom.
So you can imagine my surprise when Emily (7) told me she doesn’t want to keep going to dance class. Her reason why? Because they work too much on “all the dance moves.” Pesky dance-move teaching dance teachers.
And, yes, all you tiger moms out there, I agree. Emily’s answer is precisely the reason why she needs to keep going to dance classes. Because wind and starlight are wonderful (truly) but so is commitment, perseverance, and focus. I know that. Emily just knows that she likes to dance to the rhythm of her soul and her soul doesn’t care too much about ballet positions.
The secret truth in this is that I don’t care so much about the actual dance moves either. I just want my daughter to learn the value of giving her best so I reminded her of the recital coming up in May. My hope was that the call of the spotlight would outweigh that inconvenient focus on technique and choreography. I was wrong. I forgot that Emily creates her own spotlight.
So, I fell back on a tried and true parenting technique – parental force. I made her go. I shoved away my fear that I was being one of those horrible dance moms on reality TV and reminded myself that kids don’t always know what’s best for themselves. So my little free-spirit will have to don her pink leotard and coordinating tights and learn a little ballet. It’s good for her and I say so.
Then some starlight fell my way. During our last visit to the studio, they’d posted pictures of the costume the class will wear for their May recital. If there’s anything Emily loves as much as free-style dancing, it’s a good outfit.
On our way out to the car, Emily told me that she’d decided after all to keep going to dance class. I told her how proud I was of her improved attitude and how important it is to stick with something once you make a commitment. I casually mentioned how dance class can teach her more than just dance – she can learn about things like grace, poise and teamwork. As she skipped, bounced, and danced her way to the car, Emily replied:
“Okay, mom. But I’m just in it for the fluffy tutu.”