When I was three, I started begging my mom to take me to ballet class. Who knows why I fixated on it but I remember wanting it so badly.
On my first day, I refused to participate and hid behind my mom the entire time, sucking my thumb. The teacher, a gorgeous buxom Italian lady, came over to me at the end of the class and made me promise I would come back the following week and dance. Being shy and terrified and ever so slightly thrilled, I never thought about being able to go back on my promise.
The following week, I came back and danced. And I didn't stop until I was 30.
Zoe hasn't been asking for dance classes. Mostly she asks about taking another "horsey class", which we will, come spring. But we needed something this winter.
So on Tuesday we went to Target and I let her pick out a leotard and tights, though I tried in vain to steer her away from the fuschia one with rhinestones, finally just weakly warning her I didn't know what the teacher's rules were about what you could wear and we might have to come back to get a plain one. Next we bought some real ballet shoes from the dance store where she marvelled at the big girls trying on pointe shoes and gently stroked the fluffy tulle tutus.
The whole time we were shopping, I greeted her enthusiasm with a wary smile and repeated in my head: she is not you, she will have her own experience, she is NOT YOU, she is her own person, let her have her own experience.
She loved her first class yesterday. There was no hiding behind me, no thumb sucking. There were no rules about what you could or couldn't wear. As the girls filed into the room, I swallowed my shyness and took Z's hand to introduce her to the teacher, thinking I would have to help her integrate into the class since the moms are supposed to wait outside and we missed the first class last week.
After saying hi to the teacher, a bleached blond with a warm smile, Z let go of my hand and ran to sit down with the other girls, ready for dance class.
She is her own person, she will have her own experience.
I sat outside and jockeyed for position with the other moms, all of us pretending to be nonchalant but each of us actually desperate to catch glimpses of our girls through the little sliver of a window. A few of the moms were friendly and I was able to chat like a somewhat normal person. Having E there strapped to my chest, like a drooly, wiggly, protective chest plate of armor, helped.
All the way home, Z was smiling. "I love my new dance class, Mommy. When can we go there again?"
She is not you.
"Next week, sweetheart."
"NoooOOOO. I wanna go again TOMORROW, next week is too far away.........Can I take dance class forever and ever?"
She will have her own experience. She is not you.
"You can dance for as long as you like."