You start by taking your 3 year old daughter to dance class as something to fill an hour of her week and give her an outlet for her energy. She comes home from class and continues to dance around the house, wearing a few spare scarves from your closet or last year’s princess costume from the dress up box – asking every day there after “do I go to dance today?”
Next thing you know, you’re complaining about hours spent driving back and forth to the studio, the later-than-you’d-like rehearsal (on a school night?!), time sitting and waiting at the studio for class to end when you have a million other places to be. And don’t even get me started on the money – tuition, pointe shoes, master classes, pointe shoes, fund raisers, pointe shoes. Did I mention pointe shoes?
You fret and worry that a “normal” childhood is passing her by. She’s not on the field hockey team, she’s not a cheerleader. She’s rarely at the dinner table because she has class almost every night of the week. Family vacations are planned around summer intensive. High school football games and pep rallies are not on the schedule.
You have the podiatrist and physical therapist on speed dial (what teenager is on a first name basis with their podiatrist?) You research snacks and meals for athletes trying to balance between the need to replace all the calories expended on the Marley and the demand to maintain good lines for dance. You read articles about dancers and poor body image from too much time spent looking in a mirror but never seeing the perfection the teacher wants. “Diet” becomes a four letter word in your house.
But before you know it, she’s danced her last Nut and discarded her last pair of pointe shoes and it’s over all too soon. When it’s all over, and she’s left the stage for the last time, will you remember the hours, the money, the worry or the physical toll? My guess is “no”. You will remember the gifts that dance has given her: the ability to prioritize and multi-task, a strong, flexible body, the ability to handle pressure and last minute changes, an appreciation of music not currently heard on I Heart Radio. You will be grateful you are sending your daughter out into the world with a strong work ethic and a long attention span. You will have a great sense of peace knowing your daughter is part of a strong circle of young women equally capable of lifting one another up when the road is rough, as they are at celebrating one another’s triumphs. In the end, you can pat yourself on the back because taking her to that first dance class 15 years ago one of the best parenting decisions you made.