Their bodies spin in chaotic motion, pink tights, black leotards and dance class begins. My daughter watches with studied intensity the motions of her instructor, then carefully points her toes and executes a child’s pirouette. She is strong before she is graceful and she dances because I force the issue not because it’s her dream. I smile enjoying the missteps, the focused trying. It’s all part of a whole and that matters so much more than turning into beautiful ballerinas. Though, none of these girls know that yet, and many of their parents may not fully grasp it either.
My daughter is not in dance to turn her into a famous dancer. It’s not to present her on a stage, knowing her she won’t ever agree to perform anyway. It’s not to live out my own childhood fantasies. Though I must admit I would have loved the opportunity to be in such a class.
As she twirls and her body finds the rhythm of the music, she begins to move without thought. There is a place in dance that brings out the deeper parts of the soul, the expression of emotion, the struggle in humanity can all be felt when we move to a deeper beat than the one we hear. And even that’s not why she is in this class.
She stands against the bar and puffs out her cheeks. Her hair is in a haphazard ponytail and she doesn’t look much like the other girls in their carefully groomed buns and black leotards with pink tights. She picks at her leotard and pulls it down on her bum and I grimace a little – stop fixing! Then I laugh at myself, everyone else is equally obsessed with their own child and no one else notices that my daughter can’t stop pulling at her too small bodysuit. I knew it wouldn’t fit at the store, but she was committed to the black suit with the half sleeves and big pink swoosh down the front. Since I was pushing the dance issue anyway, I acquiesced and now I get to watch her try to make it roomier in front of her class of perfectly poised seven year olds. Her cat ears fall askew on her head and she pushes them back into place before pointing her toe and beginning her turn.
She is learning the movement and the rhythm of ballet because I want her to experience the tenacity that comes with commitment and skill. I want her to struggle and overcome. I want her to discover that sometimes even the things she thinks she doesn’t like can be challenging and wonderful. I also secretly think her high school self will thank me for this.
She is a wild child, she runs with abandon, and she chases after her brother. She plays with stuffed animals and dreams of working at an orphanage. She inspire me and delights me. She is happy with mud on her face and stomping in puddles. She is strong and courageous. And once a week she learns to be gentle, to focus on her foot placement, and move to a quiet melody.
Just being one dimensional is easy. There is something about discovering parts of yourself you don’t realize exist that brings you to a deeper understanding of self and others. If we surround ourselves with people who agree with our beliefs and values than we lose our grip for compassion and understanding.
I want my daughter to be a deep well. I want her to grow into a kind and considerate woman. I want her to care when someone doesn’t share her interests and I want her to be deep enough to learn about theirs. I want her to be challenged and not get everything she wants.
Today she dances. I fight the battles to get her to class and know that deep within she is growing. She is becoming a more interesting individual with every twist and pointe. Her future self will thank me – or not, but at least she’ll know how to waltz at her wedding.
Cherylyn Petersen, is a certified holistic health coach and mother of three. She spends her time slaving over the whims of her children, presiding over the PTA, coaching soccer, making dinner, cleaning the house, and sometimes she drinks coffee.