I can’t even think of a good title

Good Lord but this week really sucks, and it’s only mid-day Tuesday. I’m beginning to think I need a good, old-fashioned, therapeutic crying jag. I’ve felt on the verge of tears over a week now, which only grew worse yesterday morning with news of the Vegas mass-shooting. I’m just so freaking sad…..

I caught my ring on something yesterday when I was unloading the car from a Costco run. I didn’t notice anything right away, so I guess I’m lucky there. But last night, I discovered one of the prongs around my center stone had completely pulled away, and the whole setting was tilted sideways. So now I’m without my ring for at least a week while it’s being repaired, and getting the appraisal (only five years since I lost and had the center stone replaced). Anyways, while driving to the jeweler, my phone rang.  I recognized it as one of the school district numbers, so I took the call.

How do you lose track of where you are in the school year?  And how do you forget you normally get *this* call this time of year, and have for the last six years? The special ed district admin was calling to schedule Little Man’s annual IEP meeting. Punch to the gut. I’ve been trying so hard to just enjoy being in the good place he’s in this year, and avoid thinking about IEP’s and transitioning him to high school. Life is having none of my denial. It’s not like we haven’t begun discussing it. It’s been hovering there in the background all year. But the high school team – at least part of it – will be at his IEP meeting next month to start the transition process. I’m so not ready for this. As before he started middle school, I’m terrified and anxious of what next year will bring for him, not to mention just making the decision where he will go to high school. Every time I think about any of the options, I have a panic attack. I’d homeschool in one capacity or another just to ease my own anxiety, but I know that is totally not the best option for any of us. Actually going to school, being in those social situations, and dealing with the classroom is a form of therapy for him. And it would just plain be counter-productive for both of us for him to be home all day every day. But I digress….I wasn’t ready for the call to schedule his meeting. I’m not ready for his meeting. I’m not ready to make a decision for him on high school. And I’m certainly not ready for whatever fresh form of hell we’re going to deal with while he transitions to wherever he goes for high school.

My freaking TimeHop and Facebook memories have both been full of photos of the Princess dancing or posts about her dancing. She isn’t dancing at all right now. I don’t know if she will ever dance again. I miss watching her dance. I miss that part of her. I am excited for the new adventures she’s having, and the girls on her field hockey team are incredibly supportive of each other. It just still makes me a little sad……I ran into a mom from the studio in the store yesterday. Just seeing her made me tear up. P’s dancing was more than just her dancing….so many of the parents (and grandparents) became my friends. I miss that little community too. My FIL asked for a photo the other day of P – one of her dancing. Just looking through her dance photos was an emotional haul. I sent him two of my favorites, and felt a couple tears roll down my face. I hate change.

I guess I’m just feeling drained and emotionally overwhelmed at the moment. I know it will get better, but for now, those tears are pretty close to the surface. And that just is what it is……

How Not To

I’ve been processing this post for weeks, and debated whether to write it or just let it lay in my head and on my heart. But the words keep fighting to get out, so here it goes. I’m going to preface this with a word to my Princess……Please know I am not judging or disagreeing with your decision to try new and different things. Now is the time to explore and experience. Just know these words come from my viewpoint, my experience as a mom, as your mom….

When I found out I was having a baby girl, I was fairly sure I was going to put her in dance and/or gymnastics at some point. Whether it ever stuck or not would be up to her, and I would never force the issue if she straight-up hated it. But I knew we would try it out.  Before she was even born, I imagined her vaulting, swinging on the bars, and in a pink tutu and tights. When she was three, she started a Saturday morning combo class which covered ballet, tap, and a little bit of tumbling. It was adorable. She was adorable. Seriously though, I needed something girlie going on in our lives, outnumbered by men in our house. She made it through one year, and had her first recital when she was four. It was precious, and everything I’d hoped for.

We took the summer away from the studio, and when fall rolled around, I asked her if she wanted to dance again. She gave me a firm yes, so back we went to that Saturday morning class. That year, we met and made friends with another family whose oldest daughter was in class with the Princess. They’re still dancing together. That year, they did a tap routine for recital. I got used to doing the recital hair and makeup, to dress rehearsals, and buying flowers for my budding dancer.

Year-after-year, I would ask the Princess if she wanted to keep dancing. The answer was always yes. Eventually, we added a jazz class. Now, she was also playing competitive soccer. By age ten, she reached a level of dance we were at the studio three or four times a week, and she also had at least two soccer practices a week, plus Saturday (and sometimes Sunday) games. She was a busy little girl. That fall, midway through soccer and Nutcracker season, she told me she was tired. We told her it was probably time to choose between dance and soccer. She couldn’t do both at a competitive level and NOT be exhausted. I fully expected her to choose soccer, as that had been our life for more than three years.  She sat on it for a couple of weeks, and then told me she’d made her choice – she wanted to dance. I made her evaluate that choice for a couple of weeks before we started making any announcements, and she had to finish the season with her soccer team of course. But in February that winter, she became a dancer full time.

I’ve spent twelve years watching her dance, watching her become such a beautifully talented young woman. Every time I see her perform, I’m touched by her strength, her grace, her courage, her ability. I cry more often than not. I can cry just watching her hands moving in class as she works at the barre. This has been our life. I can’t begin to count the hours I’ve spent at the studio, driving to and from the studio, sewing ribbons and elastics on shoes, altering costumes, watching competitions, dress rehearsals and shows. I’ve loved it all. When  your kid does something so intently for so long, it’s not just about her anymore. You develop your own friendships with the other parents at the studio. We definitely have a much-loved dance family. And don’t get me started on her teachers and directors. They’re so much more to my girl than *just* dance teachers.

This past February, the Princess told me she wanted to stop dancing – well, at least stop ballet. I had no words, couldn’t even begin to think when she told me. I told her we were in it until recital as we’d already committed, paid, signed on the dotted line for this year. She’s a sophomore now, almost sixteen years old. She wants to try new things, be more engaged with her school. I understand. But this is hard. She may not believe this, but she is such a beautiful, talented dancer. Her face lights up on that stage. I see her – what’s inside of her – when she dances. And I just can’t imagine not being able to see that ever again.

Here’s the deal – I don’t know how not to be a dance mom. I don’t know how to not be able to watch her do something she’s so good at. I don’t know how not to be part of this dance family.

I watched her dance recital this past weekend. I cried every time she stepped onto that stage, knowing it might be the last time. We’ve spent twelve years doing this. I spent twelve years watching her grow, watching her turn into a real ballerina, a real dancer. At the hour of dress rehearsal I sat through last week, every dance she’s ever performed rolled through my head, from when she was a tiny ballerina in a pink leo and tutu, through her Hairspray jazz number, to being a turtle and lion, and on through her turn as Clara in the Nutcracker, to her solos, duo, and other competition pieces, to her finale as the Queen of Hearts in Alice in Wonderland. I could see them all in my mind. So  many hours, so many years.

Who knows what will happen in the next months and years. I know we have to let her choose, have to let her make these decisions. I will have to come to terms with change. She says she’s going to continue with some dance, but we won’t be here again, in this exact place. No more competitions, no more Nutcracker, definitely not nearly as much time at the studio. I will just have to learn how not to be the dance mom I’ve been for twelve years.

You don’t know her

I was downloading performance pictures from Nutcracker this week, and, like any good dance mom, posting them to my social media. It hit me that most of the Princess’ friends have never seen her dance. She lives in two separate worlds….her school world, and her dance world. They don’t overlap at all. There’s an entire side to her that her school peeps have never even glimpsed. I don’t hold it against them  at all. I just find it interesting.

I looked at those pictures of her dancing, knowing exactly what faults she would find and point out, which she would like, which she would tell me to not download. She sees herself critically in the photos. I just see her when I look at them, and I realized, you don’t really know her if you’ve never seen her dance. She bares herself when she’s dancing – her passion, her drive, her emotions, her intent,  her strength, her vulnerability. Every time she performs, I learn something about her, and I think that’s what makes me cry when I watch her. I see her, and I know all the work she’s put into it.

I hope someday her friends get to see her dance. They’ll see a side of her they’ve never known, they’ll maybe understand why she frequently has to say, “I can’t, I have dance”, and they’ll know her better, because you don’t really know her, all of her, unless you’ve seen her dance.

Sewing Ribbons

It’s Nutcracker week, or as it’s more affectionately known in our household, it’s Nutcracker He** week. The Princess has 3-hour dress rehearsals tonight and tomorrow night, a five-hour rehearsal Wednesday night, then two more hours of orchestra rehearsal Friday afternoon before a show Friday night, a show Saturday afternoon, and then closes the week out with two show on Sunday. I’m tired just writing that, and I’m not the one dancing.

This one snuck up on me. Usually, I’m totally prepared. But I found myself scrambling last week, making calls all over the county – and then the southern part of the state – in an attempt to track down her specific brand and size pointe shoe. We ended up having to go with a shoe with one tiny part of the sizing changed, and I had to drive to a store forty minutes away, but we picked up the new shoes this morning. Now I have the pleasure of sewing on ribbons and elastic. No – pointe shoes don’t come with the pretty ribbons attached. Every ballerina has her own particular crazy when it comes to where and how her ribbons are sewn onto her pointe shoes. No, the Princess doesn’t sew her own ribbons. I know she should, but she’s currently upstairs trying to get four hours of homework finished in two hours so she can get to rehearsal. And I’m faster at it anyways. And I’m kind of a control freak. Someday, she will sew her own ribbons, but not today.

I still have to go back out tomorrow to get tights, eyelashes, and toe pads. This is how unprepared I am for Nutcracker this year. I’m so completely off my game. The worst part is that I’m over here saying, “meh” about being completely unprepared. Here’s the deal – this is our sixth time in this rodeo. We know what we’re doing. We know there’s no need to panic. We know it will come together, even if I don’t buy her new tights until the day of the first show. So I’m unprepared and off my game, but I’m completely not stressed. Ask me again tomorrow when I’m sewing ribbons. You might hear a different answer.

Last year at this time, we were wrapped up in her playing Clara. The whole week revolved around her rehearsals and getting her ready for her rehearsals. This year, she in Corps, and it just seems easy. Don’t get me wrong – I’d do that Clara thing all over again in heartbeat. There is something about watching your daughter make the leap to dancing with the big girls, of which she is  now one. The big girls wear pointe shoes, and so I’m sewing ribbons, smiling proudly with the tears forming in my eyes as my baby girl lives her dreams so beautifully.

A niggling little fear

Want to know what moms are good at? Borrowing trouble…we seem to excel at that skill, at least I do. When things are going good, we can’t help but have that little voice in the back of our minds saying, “Don’t enjoy this too much, or something will come along to take it away.” That’s where I am right now with the Princess.

At the risk of sounding like a braggart, she’s kind of amazing. She excels in her classes (the girl gets mad when she earns less than an A+ in any class). Her science fair project won her school and went on to the County Science Fair. A story she wrote last fall was submitted to the District and was given an award. Her teachers tend to gush about  her. She was Clara in our studio’s Nutcracker production this past winter. She danced her way into 16th place of 76 dances in a recent competition. She made the cheerleading team yes, but also earned the Co-Captain position. She helps me out once a month in the nursery at church. She is a tough cookie with a good head on her shoulders.

Why does that freak me out? You’ve heard the phrase, “The bigger they are, the harder they fall”? Yeah, that. I’m terrified, not of what I know will happen, but of what I think could happen. One wrong influence, and my ambitious, hard-working, dedicated, smart, beautiful girl could head down the entirely wrong path, and all these accolades will be just memories, ghosts of what could have been.

I’ve seen it happen. Haven’t you? I’ve almost reached the point I want to shush people when they say good things about her. I’ve even downplayed some of her achievements (not in her hearing) because of this. I know it’s crazy, but it’s this niggling fear in the back of my mind, that the more amazing things she does, the more likely she is to fall, or that the very worst may happen and we may lose her. Just a little view into the insane corner of a mom’s mind.

I’m well aware she could just be one of those kids who goes on to become an amazing adult, this current state a mere glimpse into what she’s capable of. I just hear that little voice every time a teacher, friend, coach, or peer says how awesome she is. Yes, I  know I’m cra-cra. I dare you to find a mom who isn’t a wee bit off center.

Nutcracker Week

It seemed appropriate to share this once again. We’re winding up Nutcracker hell week….night four of rehearsals, with the shows beginning tomorrow night. This year, my Princess earned the role of Clara, and I couldn’t be more proud.  It’s been a long ten weeks of countless rehearsals, hours spent on partner work, long days at the studio and now the theater. So, when reading below, change the roles to Clara, Russian, and Waltz of the Flowers…..Happy Nutcracker!

I wrote the following a couple of years ago. I read it, and remember writing it, and realize that it seems like forever ago. We are in the midst of Nutcracker week, with one dress rehearsal and performance under our belts, and three more rehearsals and five shows to go.  Now she is one of the older girls. We’ve moved from ballet slippers to pointe shoes now. Her make-up application now includes false eyelashes. She does her own ballet bun. This year, she dances as a Peppermint Fairy in the Candy Scene, and is one of the Chinese Tea side girls. I had a very difficult time accepting the Holidays are here, until I heard the familiar music Saturday. She is still part of a bigger whole….she is in the Nutcracker.

The theater quiets as the lights drop. You can hear the creaking of seats as the audience settles, the last whispers, the shuffling behind the curtain as dancers take their places. Nerves push my heart into my throat, and I’m not even performing. Tonight is the culmination of months of preparation, a final week full of rehearsals and dress rehearsals. She is exhausted but exhilarated.

We have spent countless hours at the studio and theater preparing for tonight’s opening Nutcracker performance. The music plays in our minds through days and nights. Candy Cane and Jester Doll steps are practiced down the hallway, in her room in front of her closet mirrors, on the sideline at her soccer games, and on the playground at school. Performance day arrives and we spend an hour getting her into full make-up and her hair into the now-perfected ballet bun. I hold my breath as I catch a glimpse of the future in her made-up face. She quickly eats, checks her dance bag one last time for extra tights, ballet slippers, spare bobby pins, hair spray, lipstick, and her water bottle. She kisses her daddy goodbye and we are off to the theater. On the drive, I give last-minute reminders to smile, have fun, reapply her lipstick during intermission, and take it all in. She is becoming aware her role in a Holiday tradition. At the theater, I check her in the backstage door, one last kiss, a hug, and wishes for luck. She absentmindedly waves goodbye, already focusing on the task at hand.

It will be madness backstage. Costumes will be hanging on racks, awaiting dancers. Tiny gumdrops, tinier gingerbread dolls will be corralled and entertained. A TV stands in the corner so the dancers can watch what is going on onstage during the show. Younger girls look up to the older girls. The older girls look up to the pointe dancers already in their Variations costumes. A barre is on one side of the room for warm-ups. My dancer puts on her first costume and twitches the skirt into place. She puts on her mask, adjusting feathers, and takes her place on the stage.

She dances first, a solo as a Jester Doll. Gone are the days of “peeking through the window” to learn how to plie, and leaping over hula hoops.   She is becoming a real ballerina. I wonder and worry if I have pushed this into becoming her dream. Then she appears on the stage in full costume. This is bigger than my daughter dancing. This is the Nutcracker. I see her take a deep breath and then she dances. A light glows within her. A proud mom smiles past the lump in her throat and applauds her ballerina.


(photo, courtesy of Melanie Veling Photography, of the Princess in her Peach Blossom costume for Nutcracker 2013)

What she’s learned

I was talking with a friend last week about the Princess’ dancing. I also had a conversation with the Princess about how she’s different than I was at her age. She’s doing more than just dance….she’s learning valuable life lessons, things some of us don’t understand until we’re halfway through life. That alone is worth all the hours in the studio.

She’s learned when you fall, you get back up and keep going. She’s had falls and slips in performances. She’s forgotten steps. She’s gone onstage either missing part of her costume, or with it on not entirely right.  But she keeps going as if nothing is wrong. She gets back up and keeps going. She catches up and just dances, with a smile on her face.  How many of us still need to learn that lesson? Life is going to kick you in the butt every once in awhile. You can get mired down in the dirt where you’ve fallen, or you can pull yourself back up and keep going. You can get lost in what you’re doing, completely lose your way. Look around, find your anchor, and get back on track. Things may not be perfect, but take it for what it is and keep moving.

She’s in 8th grade, and in spite of being at the studio five days a week, she has all A+’s and one A. She hates that one solitary A.  She’s working to bring it up. I kid you not. She’s great at managing her time, and advocating for herself. She’s great at prioritizing. I think I was in college before I worked that all out.

She’s learned sometimes someone else gets what you want. Instead of being jealous or vindictive, use it to push yourself to work harder. She’s learned to set goals, and then ask for help if needed to reach them. She’s learned how to mentor and serve as an example for younger dancers, as is part of her responsibility when you are in a company, performance, or competition ensemble.  Even though dance is fairly individual, you all still have to work together as a team to present the best performances/shows.

On top of all that, she’s learned to dance. She has grace, strength, and incredible posture. She has gained a confidence she may not have developed until much later in life were it not for dance.