I knew the day was coming. My first ballet recital. I was so nervous I could feel the butterflies. How would it go? How would it be received? Would I be too stressed out to enjoy myself? Would I make it through the day without crying? All the emotions I felt were sending my stomach into twirls of anxiety and yet it wasn’t even my recital. It was Coco’s and I was a bundle of nerves.
Coco can be attention-seeking, clingy, stubborn, outgoing and opinionated. It’s a precarious, unpredictable mix and when you factor in changes to her routine, a room full of strangers watching, adrenaline and the fact that she’s three you never know what you are going to get. I have seen how she acts during performances (school Christmas program when she was 2.5 and again when she was 3.5) and frankly it can be embarrassing. I realize that is more about me. Who really cares if a 2 and a half-year old acts silly on stage? Probably not most people, but I did because I felt it was a reflection of my parenting or something. I know it’s ridiculous but I
did. And sadder is that I still do. Why I can’t be more easy-going about things and stop apologizing when she’s not perfect baffles me. She is such an amazing, resilient child with so many obvious gifts and so many people are crazy in love with her but I let those who are less tolerant of her creative spirit get to me. I hate that about myself! Suffice it to say, I was excited to see her recital but I was also incredibly nervous.
Coco was excited. She asked for her nails to be painted so I carefully put a pale pink polish on to match her leotard, tutu and tights. I put a dainty pale pink bow in her hair and some lip gloss. We both thought she looked beautiful.
“When you do your ballet today, Mommy is going to be watching you” I told her. “I want you to dance with all your friends and follow your teachers, okay? Don’t come sit with me when all the kids are dancing. Do your best and when you’re done we’ll get a treat!” As soon as the words came out of my mouth I regretted them. Why was I bribing her? How was that teaching her to regulate her own actions or to be accountable? By stating that was I setting myself up for a self-fulling prophecy? Alas, the damage was done. “A treat?” she responded. “Yes, Pumpkin. Mommy is going to be so proud of you for being a good listener today,” I said trying to undo the damage. “Yaya! Mommy said I can have a treat!” Another parenting moment gone awry.
As I predicted, when we arrived and she had to separate from me to practice she wasn’t in the mood to follow directions right away. She wanted to explore the place and run around.
After ten minutes or so they asked the parents to leave the room so they could do one last practice. The yaya and I crammed Coco’s feet into her now-too-tight ballet slippers and made our way out the door. When we returned we settled into our seats for the organizer’s welcome. As he walked to the center of the room Coco ran up to him to hug him and tried to hang on him. He was trying to simultaneously welcome the families and pull her off of him. I was sitting in the front row with my point and shoot camera and glasses balancing on my lap and my DSLR in my hands poised to get some shots with no hands free to grab her or shield my face from the embarrassment. I know from experience that making a scene and stepping into this type of situation makes things worse. Far better to try to ignore her and ride it out than to intervene and have her kick it up a notch and start whining or crying or running wildly around the room to escape me. So as this man is thanking the teachers for their hard work, there was my daughter clinging to him wanting to be noticed. Problem was, he wasn’t acknowledging her and the more he ignored her the more noticeable she was intent on becoming. Once he dislodged himself from her grip, she dropped to the floor, lay on her back and playfully kicked at him for attention until he finished the introductions. It was embarrassing enough until he threw in this nice comment. It went something like this: “Parents, we thank you so much for sending your children to us for these past ten weeks of ballet. We enjoyed having them here with us, even this one.” Oh God, could the floor just swallow me up? I was both embarrassed and enraged. Yes, I know she can be difficult at times but did he have to publicly throw her under the bus like that? I could feel my face burning as I felt many pairs of eyes look my way and what did I do? I chuckled. What else could I do? I laugh when I’m nervous but frankly I was so shocked and hurt by his comments I didn’t know what else to do. There he stood in all his smug I’m-a-better-parent-than-you self-righteousness and I wanted to smack him. But what do I do? I chuckle. And then I stew about it for the next week because not only did I not confront him about it later, but by chuckling it came across like I was in agreement with him or commiserating with him for all he had gone through when the reality is she is the one who has gone through things. We as a family have gone through things. He wasn’t even teaching her! What exactly did he go through? Perhaps he witnessed some of her antics when he dropped off or picked up his daughter but that’s about it. Jerk. 😦 (okay, I’m totally overreacting but I was annoyed)
Thankfully, my yaya came to the rescue and went up to the stage, gathered Coco up off the floor and carried her off. After that incident it was time for the kindergartens to perform. Coco didn’t want to sit with the other preschoolers while they danced, she wanted to sit with me. No problem. She was quiet and attentive. Then it was time for the 3 and 4 year olds to go on stage but Coco wasn’t ready to dance. She refused. She got off my lap and hid under the chair. Her teachers tried to coax her out but she said no. As all the other kids lined up her teacher pulled out her last straw, “I’ll give you some Cheetos,” she said. Coco has no idea what Cheetos are but she must have figured they were good enough to do ballet for because she crawled out from under the chair and joined her classmates in line.
She was very serious and kept her eyes on her ballet teachers the whole time. She never smiled and she barely looked at me. Her tutu was all twisted and caught in the waistband of her tights and the entire time she fiddled with it and twisted it around some more.
The dance was short, ten minutes at most. When it was done and everyone starting clapping she looked relieved. Maybe she was as nervous as I was? Maybe she knows it’s hard to stand still or how hard she has to concentrate to get things done. After they did their routine they had all the kids sit on the floor while they passed out certificates. She waited patiently for her name to be called and was thrilled when it was her turn to go up.
She marched right up to collect her certificate and rose. She was so proud. Then she turned around, walked right up to me and said, “This is for you, Mommy.” Aw, little sweetie! I was so proud of her!
The performance was done. We both survived. She ate cupcakes and I madly captured the day in digital and in my own sweet memories.