Most of the time my daughter plays it calm, cool, and collected....most of the time. She's polite, studious, reserved, and can handle herself in a room full of adults better than in a room full of kids her own age. When she was in preschool her teachers often joked that she was 3 going on 33. Oh, don't get me wrong, she can be silly, playful, goofy, and downright spastic...I love to catch glimpses of my 11-year-old "little" girl. It makes my heart smile. But what I witnessed yesterday. What happened right in front of me. Was a transformation. A transformation that manifested itself...physically. You know when Cinderella's fairy godmother whisks her wand and Cindy's raggedy old dress magically turns into a beautiful ballgown? THAT'S what I'm talking about. And I wonder how many parents get to witness that. Who actually gets to see those moments happen?
My daughter is a dancer. She's been taking ballet since she was 4 and she doesn't want to do anything else. In her words, "I HAVE to dance, Mommy!" And, indeed, she does. She can't not dance. She's been dancing, twirling, spinning, floating since she could balance on 2 feet. It's her. It's what she does. It's what she loves. And so I encourage her and support her and do my best to make sure she has the most amazing and full dance experience possible. So when she came to me and said she wanted to audition for a summer intensive - halfway across the country - I didn't hesitate. Sure, you can audition for this summer ballet thingy halfway across the country. Have I mentioned yet that it's HALFWAY ACROSS THE COUNTRY? It is. And we went to the audition...which was not halfway across the country. And it was there where the aforementioned transformation occurred.
When we walked through the door to studio 608 the reality of what she was about to do slapped her right in the face. Hard. Girls - and boys - were everywhere. Legs were everywhere, feet were everywhere...with each step we dodged more experienced dancers warming up, getting dressed, fixing hair. Overbearing dance moms paced the floor, making rounds, sizing up their own daughters' competition. It was quite obvious that my daughter was the youngest dancer there by far and that's when her nerves kicked in. We registered, paid our fee, got her audition number (#3), and found ourselves a spot where we would wait until the audition began. She became withdrawn and self-aware. She wanted to be anywhere but there and declared that she would never do this again. Never...ever. Her nerves were doing a number on her and self-doubt crept in as she watched the older girls' frenzied exercises. Then...it was time.
I gave her a little pep talk and she walked away, pointe shoes grasped tightly in hand. Then she stopped when she reached the door, peeked inside and walked back to me. Another little pep talk, another walk to the door, another walk back to me. And she let out her worries: what if I mess up? what if they laugh at me? what if I make a fool of myself? More pep talking and another attempt to enter the studio. The third time she backed out she looked at me and I could see tears swelling in her eyes. They were red, she was red, her breath was fast. I held her hands in mine to calm her down and gave her more encouragement...even though at that moment I really thought she was going to back out. Then another mother who had been watching our exchange casually walked by and as she passed she whispered into my daughter's ear, "You'll never know unless you try." It was then that the transformation began. Tears went away in a blink, a frantic and red face was replaced with a calm, stoic determination. She hugged me and said, "I love you, Mommy." Took a deep breath, walked into the studio, and found her place at the barre.
And my little girl....became a young lady.
I got to peek in and see a little bit of the audition. She did well. She held her own. She kept up and I was impressed at how easily she fell into the rhythm of the fast-paced class. She's been taught well...very well. We won't know the results for a couple of weeks but that doesn't matter. What she gained in that 2-hour class is what matters. She conquered her fear, she stepped out of her comfort zone, she took a risk for something she loves. And she handled it with grace and poise. She has earned my admiration and respect...I couldn't have done what she did...not as a kid and not now as an adult. Props to my little girl, er...young lady. I love you, too, Sweet Pea.