OK, so on Monday, Greta had her first trial ballet class. I say trial because the dance school here gives you one free session to see if your kid is ready for the teacher-student environment of the classroom before you sign up for regular classes. Pretty cool, huh? Especially considering how much the classes cost! Whew…
So, I get her all “balleted-out” with her favorite shirt and tutu, her favorite ballet slippers, a big flowery headband, the works…she looked adorable, seriously, the cutest kid there by a longshot. The minute we walk in, Greta meets the teacher and is all smiles as she follows the other girls into the studio to warm up. I tired to take her hand and walk her in, but she was already gone. Good sign, I thought, she knows what she’s doing…no hand-holding necessary for my little superstar!
So, then the class begins, and all the parents in the lobby lean close to watch the closed-circuit TV feed from the classroom. Actually, I was probably the only one “leaning close” as the other parents seemed to be seasoned dance class veterans.
Then my brother and sister-in-law and Mrs. Yeti arrive to watch Greta’s “debut”. It’s a big moment, we’re all terribly excited to see Greta decimate her peers on the dance floor (um, actually, maybe that was just me again) and guess what happened? Nothing. Literally!
Instead of flitting through the air like a tragic, love-struck swan, Greta just stood there with her head bowed and her arms at her side for almost the entire class. I know I should have felt nothing but compassion for this shy little girl staring at the floor, but, honestly, all I could feel was mortified. Seriously, I wanted to run in there, pull her aside and shake some sense into her: “You dance at home, you dance at Target, you dance pretty much anywhere we go, but you can’t do it here, where it really counts?! What’s wrong with you, kid?!” Yes, I know, I totally suck as a parent. But, I’m sorry, that’s how I felt at the time.
Of course, no one there would have known that. I just kept smiling and laughing nervously as she stood there sucking the fun out of that roomful of cute-ass kids. My brother described her best as looking like the dude from “The Blair Witch Project” in that final, spooky-ass shot in the movie. And, sadly, that’s exactly what she looked like, just standing there completely still with her head bowed. All she needed was some long black hair to hang in her face and she could be the next great Japanese horror film monster. Oy, it was a nightmare…
And then, maybe halfway through the class, she started to move. First her feet, then her hands, and then she actually followed the teacher from one end of the studio to the other, imitating her moves the entire time. One of the seasoned vets nearby turned to me and said: “Wow. She’s doing really good for her first time!” To which I responded in total disbelief: “Really?!” Urgh, I’m such a prick.
Then, the funniest thing happened. The teacher left the room for a moment and Greta suddenly stood up and dramatically twirled up and down the line of her peers. Sure, she looked a little crazy and yes, the other kids looked at her like she was a little crazy, but, hey, at least she was moving!
Of course, the minute the teacher returned to the studio, Greta stopped dancing. And when the girls took a break to change into their tap shoes for the second half of the class, Greta left the studio never to return. It was like: “Cool, I’m done. Let’s go to the park.” Still not sure of what to do or say, Mrs. Yeti and I just told Greta what a good job she did and then made her wait till the class ended so we could talk to her teacher about what to do next.
The teacher and the other people working at the school assured us that, in fact, Greta did really well for her first time and suggested we try the free class one more time next Monday to see how she does. I was still skeptical of the whole thing — and it’s not just the money talking, because my Mom is paying for the class — but agreed to bring Greta back next week for another session.
And then we went to the park where all I could do was think about what I had done wrong. Did I over-hype the class to Greta? To others? To myself? Did I push her into this? Was she ready for a ballet class at two-and-a-half? Did she even care about any of this shit as much as I did? Yikes…my head was spinning and like I usually do when my head spins, I fell asleep. Yep, right there on the park bench, in the middle of a really good story my brother was telling. Sorry, hermano!
And when I awoke a couple of minutes later, I realized that the problem wasn’t Greta at all, it was me. Again, I think my brother said it best when he asked me: “What did you think was going to happen today?” BAM! Good question, man. I came clean and admitted that I thought Greta was gonna burn the place down with her mad ballet skills, and even as the words flowed over my lips, I knew how wrong my entire approach had been.
This class was supposed to be about and for Greta, not me, and my role as a parent was to shut my big mouth and bring her back next week for our second free class. If she likes it, cool, if she doesn’t, well, that’s cool too. And if she wants to stand there like a character from a freaky Japanese horror film, that’s also totally acceptable. I brought her to the well, my Mom paid for the water, but that doesn’t mean she’s gonna drink it.
And you know what? That’s fine. Seriously, nothing good ever grew in the shadow of a nasty-ass stage parent. So, from here on out, no pressure, kid. Be yourself. Love yourself. Dance or don’t dance. We’ll be there to cheer you on no matter what you do.
But, seriously, can you try and decide if you like this stuff before we invest in the real tap and ballet shoes? That shit’s kinda pricey…