So I have this daughter. And she’s a lot like me. But then again, she’s nothing like me.
She’s funny and ridiculous and high-energy. But then again, she’s cautious and slightly anxious and shy and somewhat uneasy in new situations.
Lila started ballet back in September. She goes Monday and Wednesdays from 4:00 – 5:00 p.m. We knew it wasn’t going to be easy.
At the first class? She was slightly cautious… but excited. She participated. She sort of smiled. It was good. Just as we had suspected for Lila. The norm.
The second class? Not so great. There were some tears, but she ended up jumping in and participated.
The third class? Um, there was some sobbing. She refused to do the 30 minutes of warm-up exercises; she just couldn’t bear it. She SOBBED. I mean SOBBING complete with crocodile tears. It was bad.
She cried and said, “No! No! NO!” and SCREAMED.
We were those people.
Did she really not want to go? Was I forcing her? Was I becoming a stage-mom-ballerina-forcer? Should I let her quit? Do we just ride this thing out?
Before class I’d prepare her and talk a lot about ballet. She was excited and ready to go give it another try! “Yes, I want to go! I am a ballerina! I am not going to cry! I am brave!”
Then we’d get there and climb the stairs to the dance studio and she’d sit on the wooden bench in her cute little lavender leotard with pink skirt… and I could see the tears well up in her eyes… her chin would quiver… then BAM! the sobbing. The “Mommy-‘NO!'” and the – “I can’t do it!”
“I can’t do it.”
Arrow to a Mommy’s heart.
Seriously? My heart broke a little when I first heard those particular words from my 3-year-old’s lips.
So, I asked her to tell me more about what she was feeling and she admitted that she didn’t know how to do the warm-up exercises that the rest of the students were learning. I explained that the other girls in the class were learning, too! And that her ballet teacher would help her.
This didn’t really help much.
So, I memorized the warm-up exercises and we practiced them at home before the next class so that Lila would be comfortable when she returned for the next class. This would help her feel more comfortable, right?
She sobbed for 30 minutes at the next class. And then 30 minutes at the next class. Then 28 minutes at the next class. Then 15 minutes at the next. Then we were back to 30.
By the 8th or 9th class, I was sort of over it. Seriously. I mean, the gym where the ballet studio is located is the same temperature as the sun. I would sit there and SWEAT while Lila refused to dance, warm-up or participate for at least half of the 1-hour class. I mean, really? I’m leaving work early and hustling home to pick you up for this?
At one point, the dance instructor pulled me aside and asked, “Um… do you think… maybe… she doesn’t really want to be here?”.
I dismissed her. We persisted.
I never once asked Lila, “Do you want to go home?”
I never once told her, “You don’t have to do this.”
Should I have? I don’t know. This is all wholly unchartered parenting territory. Where’s the guidebook?
You guys, she would SOB. I mean SOB. I’d sit there and text Craig throughout the class and tell him, “I cannot take this. I’m going to let her quit. This is stupid. SHE CRIES EVERY WEEK. I CANNOT TAKE THIS ANYMORE.”
Then a couple of classes ago, guess what? Her Daddy took her to class.
They climbed the stairs to the studio, she sat on the bench, he helped her with her ballet shoes and then? She told him to “sit here” while she went in and danced. For an hour. Without a tear.
All the while Craig is texting me and I’m incredulously reading his texts. My favorite one was the ever simple, “I am so proud of her.”
He took her again today and it happened again. She walked in there like it was her job and danced.
Persistence. She kept at it. And she did it. It just took 10 or 11 classes to get her there, but that’s ok. Because every kid has a timeline.
So even though it was painful and tearful and tough for her and us… seeing her smile as she RUNS through the ballet studio door is worth it.
Hearing her say, “I can’t wait to go to ballet!” is even better.
Hearing her say, “I was brave! I CAN do it!” is even COOLER.
Life Lesson #1, Lila Ross. Life Lesson #1.