The Late, Quiet Moments

The Princess’ dance studio is twenty minutes away from our home. Well, it’s usually 17 minutes each way, but I’ve done it in 12 minutes when there weren’t any slow people in front of me, no traffic on the freeway, it wasn’t raining, and I needed to get there very quickly, but I digress. Let’s just call it twenty minutes away. It’s not a hardship to make the drive, most of the time. Some nights, I’m just tired, but for the most part, it’s just an accepted part of the deal. The family we’ve become part of there, including her directors, studio manager(s), and teachers, are worth it. And we can usually get her a ride back to a closer-to-home meeting spot when needed.

Tuesdays are her late nights at the studio these days. She finishes class at 8:45pm, which means I leave the house around 8:20 to go pick her up. I was making the drive last night, and realized I don’t mind those later-night drives. I appreciate the quiet. On the way there, I appreciate the time to quiet my mind, the opportunity to just breath. It’s dark, there aren’t many cars on the road. I enjoy the drive on the curvy road between the freeway and the village the studio calls home. I also appreciate the drive home with the Princess in the car.  Some nights, she’s full of chatter. Some nights, she’s lost in her own thoughts. Some nights, she falls asleep, exhausted from a full day of cheer, school, homework, and nearly three hours of dancing. Some nights, we sing our hearts out all the way home. I love them all.

The drives at night, those late, quiet moments, remind me of when my babies were babies, and we had those nightly 3am feedings. At the same time you’re wiped out and just want to sleep, you know those quiet moments with your baby are fleeting, they’re special. There’s just something different about them. Some of my friends think I’m insane when I say I miss those 3am feedings, but I do miss them. I miss that quiet time, holding my loves closely in the dark, the rest of the household sleeping, the world outside dark, the busyness of the day  held at bay.

Here’s the thing – I’m so very aware how short my time with my babies home is. In two weeks, the Princess will take her permit test. This time next year, I won’t be driving to and from the studio because she will be driving herself. Our quiet, late night drives will be done. In two years, Big Man will graduate high school, the Princess in three. They are growing up, too fast. Maybe I’m overly-sentimental, overly-emotional, but those things that used to be irritating, annoying, disturbances to my sleep and my schedule are now cherished, because they are fleeting. So I make those drives late on Tuesday nights, or after dress-rehearsals, or after shows, or after football and basketball games, and I don’t mind.

 

Friday Music

Since I was in high school, and Friday afternoons were spent getting ready to go to football games, basketball games, and dances, there’s been a certain kind of music playlist. I always just called it Friday Music….you know what I’m talking about, right? Don’t Friday afternoons have a different feeling than all the other afternoons in the week? School has ended for the week, work is out for the weekend. It’s kind of a celebration of surviving yet another week.

My sister and I shared an apartment my junior year of college. We’d come home from our classes and turn on our Friday music. It would blast while we got ready for whatever party, game, or dance we were going to that night. There was quite a bit of dance music – think late-80’s stuff. We’d listen to the Cure, Janet Jackson, Beastie Boys, and U2, as well as whatever else was striking our fancy as pre-party music. We never questioned turning the Friday Music on. It was expected.

When the kids were little, I stopped listening to my Friday music. I’m not really sure why. Fridays didn’t mean going out anymore. Spouse and I were typically exhausted by Friday evening each week – date nights and parties were left to Saturday nights, when we’d had a day to recover from a week of work and taking care of toddlers. But now my kids are older. I spend Friday afternoons watching my cheerleader get ready for games with her fellow cheerleaders. Spouse and I might go out afterwards. That freedom, that feeling of celebration has returned. Friday afternoons once again require a certain kind of music, a special playlist all its own.  My Friday Music playlist still has a lot of Janet Jackson and Beastie Boys, but also Tupac, Dr. Dre, Eminem, early-90’s hip hop and rap, and a bunch of current stuff. Friday Music is whatever makes you dance.

Do you have a Friday Music playlist? Who’s on it?

Commit

Since our kids were little, we’ve spoken consistently on commitment – if you say you’re going to do something, you do it; you finish what you start, and you don’t half-ass it. If you can’t or won’t abide those rules, you don’t even start. You can’t tell your kids one thing and do something else, so we do our very best to live this out. This means that even when we’re tired, or overwhelmed, we have to suck it up.

I’m training for two races right now, with the goal of finishing the half marathon in June at or just under two hours. That means work, because I have to take over 8 minutes off my best time. I have a training plan I’m doing my best to stick with. Travel and illness have derailed it a bit, but I’m back in the saddle this week, getting miles in. I’m even doing speed work, which I completely detest. More shocking, I’ve run in the rain. I’ve always been a fair-weather runner. I hate being out in the rain. But I have to put the miles in, so I shove a hat on my head, put on sunglasses to keep the rain out of my eyes, and get out there. I’ve also never run back-to-back days, much less three days in a row, but I’m doing it. I actually feel stronger, and have fewer issues with my hip and IT band than when  I was just running three days a week. It helps to have a friend holding me accountable, but I’ve committed to a goal, and it’s on me to finish it. That means there are nights I don’t go out because I have a long run early the next morning. That means getting up on a Saturday morning when I’d much rather sleep in. That means squeezing in runs even when I have a billion other things to get done. That means taking care of my body so it can carry me through 13.1 miles/

Big Man had some struggles with fully committing earlier this school year. He was out there at practice, but man, talk about phoning it in. Granted, he was struggling with growing pains, but he just would not push through. It came back to haunt him, and he learned a valuable lesson, one that didn’t come from us.

The Princess has been about commitment for years. When she chose dance over competitive soccer, she was mid-way through a soccer season. She knew she had to carry it out, finish the season with her team. Her soccer family was relying on her. They needed her to remain fully engaged until the end. It was rough….she was exhausted, but she fought until the very end of the very last game of her very last tournament. She decided to cheer in high school, so for nearly a year, she’s been at school almost every weekday morning at 6am to practice. That doesn’t begin to cover all the extra hours at camp, cheering at games, making posters and putting together gifts for athletes, working hard on pep rally routines. In the midst of all this, she’s done her best to maintain  her dance schedule.

Here’s the deal – your kids are going to learn to be committed to things if you aren’t showing them how. You can’t tell them to commit if you aren’t committed to whatever you’re doing. Some days it’s much harder than others, but you do it, even when it’s difficult, and you’re tired, and you’d much rather sit on the couch watching baseball movies all day.

Soon Enough

I’m faced daily with the fact our time with our kids is running short. Soon enough, too soon, the oldest will be starting college visits, will begin making choices for his future, will graduate and head off to college. The year after, the middle will do the same, and then we’ll just have two years left with the little at home. It’s completely cliche, but these years are going to fly by.

When your kids are little, you count up….you count up the years, you count up each milestone reached, each phase, each stage. They start school, and you count up the grades. Our script has been flipped. I’m now counting down. Each milestone is one step closer to our house being empty. We’re weeks away from Big Man getting his driver’s license. Soon, I won’t be driving him to and from school anymore, won’t be driving him to and from practices. I’m counting down the number of times I will walk out the door to the car to take him to school. I’m counting down the number of times I’ll need to sit outside the high school waiting to pick him up. I’m counting down the number of times I’ll wait for his text they’re on the last hole at the golf course so I know when to go pick him up. While there’s some joy and excitement in the freedom it will give both of us, it’s a step away for him…one more move towards adulthood and independence.

We count down the sports seasons. He has two more cross country seasons, three more golf seasons. I remember how long four years used to seem. It’s not that way anymore. I didn’t even get to see him race this year but once. I feel a push to take advantage of every opportunity to witness his achievements.

Same goes for the Princess. I’m counting down the number of recitals and Nutcrackers she has left before she’s off to college. I’m counting down the number of games she will cheer, trying to be there as much as possible. I don’t want to miss a thing. She’s started her online driver’s ed. She will take her permit test in April, her license test in October. She’s spending more time with her friends. She’s charting her own territory. Before I know it, 6am cheer will no longer be my problem – she’ll be taking herself. The nights driving to and from the studio, or sitting there for hours while she’s in class will be history for me. I can’t really begin to wrap my brain around that. What am I going to do with myself?

Every first is another notch in the countdown of them growing up. I feel myself counting down, nearly every day. We only have so many spring breaks, so many summers, so many first days of school left. I’m trying to process that. I’m trying to hold onto each moment I have with them, make them all count, but not go completely off the rails so much I hold them back. I actually asked the Princess permission to watch her cheer tonight at a wrestling match. Yeah, that.

When they were little, the days did last forever. I struggled to reach bedtime every single day. I counted hours from waking to bed, wishing days away because they were hard. My toddlers got the best of me. My littles exhausted me. I couldn’t wait for sports seasons to be over so I could breath. I longed for the end of each school year so I could be done with the homework battles and endless projects, as well as the morning hurricane process of getting them out the door. The saying, “The days are long but the years are short” is truth.  I wish I’d realized that in those early days, because now I’m counting down, and I’m very aware how short the next few years will be.

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.

Olympic Back Stories

I think one of my favorite parts of the Olympics is hearing/watching all the backstories they do on individual athletes. I love finding out what challenges they’ve overcome, how they started, how they came to this point – an elite athlete competing on a world stage. Every time I see one of the back-story segments, I can’t help but think what my kids’ back stories would look like….

My kids and their cousins face multiple challenges amongst the group. A few have already overcome so much….prematurity, hearing loss, autism, anxiety…..I watch them excel in school, in running, in golf, in acting, in being amazing, funny, brilliant human beings, and I’m moved. I write their Olympic back-stories in my mind all the time, and it can (okay, frequently does) make me cry.

Big Man was born over 3 months prematurely, spent over 90 days in the NICU, was diagnosed with asthma at 5  years old, and ADHD at 8 years old.  He could have, and probably should have, faced hearing or vision loss, heart surgery, developmental delays/disability, Cerebral Palsy, or a host of any other issues. Instead, he can hold his breath underwater for over a minute (so much for preemie lungs!), ran a half marathon at 15 years old in under two hours, and golfed on the Varsity golf team as a high school Freshman. Can you just hear that Olympic story?

Little Man was diagnosed ADHD and Autistic when he was 8 years old…pretty late, comparatively.  He continues to be mainstreamed in school, and his brilliant mind often scares me. He’s smarter than the rest in this household combined. He can code like a fiend. He has his own YouTube channel on which he regularly posts gaming videos. He seems to finally be coming into his own, more secure in his abilities, in his friendships. There may  not be an Olympic sport for coding, but if there were, he would win, so I write his story in my mind too.

One of my niece’s is hearing-impaired. She was late-diagnosed as well, but she hasn’t let that hold her back. She accommodated for herself before anyone knew to accommodate for her. She’s a wicked-fast runner, competing at a high level in cross country and track at her high school. College recruiters started contacting her a year ago. Yeah, I write her story every time she wins or places well in a race.

Another niece faces anxiety and depression. She’s also a beautiful, talented dancer, in  her second  year on her college dance team. On top of that, she writes, oh my does she write. I’ve had the great joy of reading multiple articles she’s written this summer. I’d like to think she gets that from me. Hah! When she’s a national news reporter, sportscaster, or journalist, someone will write a segment on her life. Back story…..I’m already writing it.

Then there’s my nephew B. He’s an actor. He also is a runner. He’s bloody brilliant as well, but six years ago he was an entirely different kid.  He writes too. His FB posts are witty, sarcastic, thought-provoking. He heart is huge, particularly for the underdog. Some day, when he is up for an Oscar, they’ll do a back story on him. They can thank me, because I’ve already written it in my mind for them.

Now, I didn’t call these five out to say the rest in our family aren’t amazing as well. My brother, sister, and I each helped produce great kids. They are all extremely talented in their own ways. And I have an Olympic backstory for each of them.