Sunday, March 15, 2009

A Tiny Dancer Gets a Lesson in Self-Worth!

There are moments of profound wisdom offered up to us from our precious children. I am often left awe inspired when I open myself up to seeing and hearing the treasures of their conscious and subconscious minds. The essence of the “tween” is fascinating to me since I happen to have two of them. There are remnants left of the little babies I doted over and rocked to sleep, but mostly now, they look and act like miniature adults, capable of thoughts and deeds often far beyond my expectations and comprehension. The challenge lies in warding off the “learned indifference” that sometimes comes with this. I find myself taking for granted the miracles that must happen in order for them to do what they do. And then, as fast as I have forgotten their miraculous nature, I am reminded of it in some endearing act that they spontaneously commit.

My daughter recently competed in a dance competition which provided a few of those moments. When we were backstage, marking her dance, her shoes came untied. Her coach sat with her, patiently providing both of us a lesson on the subtle art of tying a point shoe, and marveling at the fact that while in a few moments she would perform one of the most difficult classical ballet numbers ever choreographed, she still hadn’t mastered the basics of tying her shoes. She performed like a pro under enormous pressure, to the best of her abilities. And when she finished dancing, she grabbed her teddy bear, and requested a trip to Dairy Queen and “Bounce World” subtly reminding me that while she can dance like an adult, she is indeed, only 10. These are the moments that reveal the truly profound nature of what our children are capable of and the delicate balance of transitioning from child to adult.

According to her coaches, this is the “competition of competitions” in the ballet world. It is a vital step to securing her place, as she will “be seen” by just the right eyes that will potentially open doors for her along the way. I don’t know enough about ballet to know if this is true. I trust the advice of her coach. But there’s nothing like a little pressure for a 10 year old to get her off to a great start! And thus begins the struggle as a parent to balance the innate love for dance with the “hysteria” of over achievement.

Dancing spreads joy instantly. On the positive side, it teaches her grace, poise, self confidence, discipline, how to deal with success and failure, staying “on center”, inner strength, physical strength, and the pride that comes from achieving ones goals. It will allow her to be fully self-expressed in a world where so many of us aren’t. And being able to touch others through artistic expression really is a gift to be shared. So, for the most part, I am supportive of this endeavor.

And then there is the dark side…politics, inequities in judging, abusiveness, mental games, the potential for obsession with self image, and the hype. Fortunately, the company my daughter dances in embraces and promotes the positive side of dance! It is during competition time that we are exposed to the dark side. Seeing her on stage melts my heart, as it would with any parent. But the thing that makes me most proud is that my 10 year old daughter, in all her ultimate wisdom and practicality, sees right through the BS!

She was fortunate enough to make it to the finals in New York, but she realizes that others in the company, who did deserve to go, (even more than her), were overlooked. The sadness of that fact stifled the joy of her accomplishment. Even at 10, she was well aware of the politics involved and the inequities in the judging! I didn’t have to explain it to her, she explained it to me as she recounted, (quite accurately I thought) who should have placed in the competition versus who did. As we were driving home she said, “Mom, don’t waste your money taking me to New York. I can see that they have already decided that I am one of those kids who will make it into the top 12, but has no shot of ever placing. So if you send me, you’ll essentially just be paying a lot of money to watch me dance on a big stage. We could do something better with that money, like save it!”

That is profound wisdom! She doesn’t need a dance competition to define her self-worth and she is willing to sacrifice her own dreams for the greater good, (in this case, the family finances). Her ability to quickly size things up and her willingness to see things for what they are will carry my child gracefully and decisively through her life. That’s the bright side, and I couldn’t ask for anything more!


  1. Beautiful post!

    Congratulations to the tiny dancer. We were all rooting for her!

  2. Have you been "off the grid" as of late? Missing your beautiful updates; they often encourage me and remind me why I am so passionate about HSing. Hope all is well with you and yours!