Every day in Kindergarten, the kids are permitted to do a “share” – a version of show and tell in which they stand in front of the class and present a toy, a book, a piece of dryer lint scraped up from the floor, and talk about it a bit. Not every kid participates.
Thalia participates daily.
One day, as her teacher explained, she got up in front of the class.
“What is your share today, Thalia?” the teacher asked.”
“Today I am going to do ballet,” Thalia said and she proceeded to leap and jump and twirl for the class.
When her teacher told me the story I nearly died. Because when I was a kid, I did the exact same thing.
Thalia is a dancer. It’s in her blood. She would rather listen to Tchaikovsky than Laurie Berkner. If there’s no music, she hears it anyway. She drills her sister with Coupé Passé Coupé! She practices leaps in our long, narrow entrance hallway–or really, any space with those dimensions, whether we’re in the lobby of my father’s apartment building during a tree trimming party, or the busy main floor of Target. Thalia can’t not dance.
So I was surprised to hear her say that she doesn’t want to take ballet again next term at the local ballet school we adore so much.
“But…but…” I stammered. “Don’t you love Miss Patty? Don’t you love leaping?”
She shrugged. “I want to take tap dancing.”
And she proceeded to jump around spastically, flailing her arms and stomping her feet in a rough imitation of Savion Glover.
We’ve come a looong way from early last year when could not afford lessons and I was 87% bitter about it. We’ve saved up some money to allow Thalia and Sage to explore one or two activities at a time–ballet, soccer, gymnastics. And the one Thalia has loved best is ballet.
And the one I have loved best is seeing her take ballet.
But now, dashed are my dreams of her cameo in the Nutcracker. Gone is my fantasy of having a child who’s a prodigy at something, something she can say she started doing when she was 3. Except maybe singing Fish Heads.
I wasn’t quite sure how to proceed. I felt myself pushing her, just a little bit. Bargaining with her even, to see if she might consider staying in the class. But then, I don’t want to be That Mom, the one who lives my own dashed dreams through my kid. Nate noticed it and called me on it. (Damn him.) And I pulled back.
It’s hard to know where to draw the line between encouraging our kids not to give up, and pushing them into something they don’t want to do. I had to remember the mother who told me that her barely four year-old son didn’t like violin lessons, but “how important” she thought she was. I wasn’t crazy about how that sounded. (To say nothing of his violin playing. Wokka wokka wokka.)
And then I remembered that I too stopped taking ballet when I was five–and switched to modern dance. The new trajectory was life-changing; I found myself though it. I found my heart and my soul and my self-esteem, and friends I still adore. I choreographed modern throughout high school, I won a small scholarship from it, and it’s something I continued doing straight through college.
I am going to try and let Thalia find her own path, hard as I admit it is. Although I am kind of hoping Thalia doesn’t keep tap dancing into college. We have hardwood floors.