Sunday, March 16, 2008
Now I Understand
When I was little, my mother put me in ballet classes. I think she thought I was too chubby. I couldn't have been more than 4. I remember going to those classes in my black leotard, pink tights and pink leather slippers thinking, "Don't I look cute?" Our teacher would make us practice our splits, but I don't think I was able to do them. Even back then, I would get lost in thought and forget to switch legs when she told us to. After that year, my mom never enrolled me again. I never forgot that.
Fifteen years later, my roommate and I tried out for cheerleader in college. I had never done it before - I was known as a dyed in the wool "band geek/flag twirler." Tryouts were fun, but I didn't make it. I called my mother to let her know, and her only comment was, "Well, you were never very coordinated." It was like a stab to the heart. Weren't moms supposed to console you no matter how bad you were at something?
A few years later I became an aerobics instructor at a dance studio. I was quite good. My classes were always full. Since I worked for the studio, I got to take ballet, tap and jazz classes. I told my mom, and although I can't remember her exact response, it wasn't super supportive. I then asked her why, when I was little, she did not continue my dance classes. Her answer? "You never practiced," to which I replied, "I was FOUR." I don't think it ever crossed her mind that it would never occur to a four year old to practice.
Now to many of you still reading at this point might think that the purpose of this entry is to bash my mother. On the contrary, it is to say, "Now, I understand." I understand why I do what I do to my own daughter.
I have become a mother to a dancer. She has a very good memory for routines. Is she perfect? No, but because she loves what she does, I have to filter myself when I hear my mother's voice trying to come out. "Caitlin, you're not trying hard enough."... "Caitlin, how come you don't practice." ..."Caitlin, look at so and so, you can tell she practices a lot."
I freely admit that I am living vicariously through my daughter. I get a sense of satisfaction taking her to competitions. Watching her team perform and receive High Gold and Platinum medals. It doesn't matter, that I spend my free time each week running her to dance lessons, or that I use my tax refund to pay for contest fees, costumes and hotels. (I am happy to say I have not gone into debt as many mothers may have.)
At the end of each season, I ask her if she wants to continue dancing, secretly hoping that the answer is yes. For if she says no, then what will I do? Thinking about this possibility, I decided to make a preemptive strike....
I signed up for dance classes myself as seen above - front row, second from the right. I have survived one recital, and I'm making my way to another one in June. No, I am still not the greatest, but we have fun laughing at each other. I no longer have to get my satisfaction vicariously. Should my daughter decide to give up dance, I can continue dancing without her.
(Secretly, I still hope she doesn't.)