Ballet, Tears, BS and Life Lessons

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Six dance classes, two karate classes, six play dates, two sleepovers, a scooter session in the park and 12 meals at home = Spring break madness. My new name is Vacation Concierge and I must admit I would pay TOP dollar to anyone worthy of the future gig!

Welcome to my chaotic life, trying to please four children and a few friends who are off from school.  But as always, in my chaos there is a lesson to be learned.

As I ring out my last weeks of freedom before my Dancing with the Stars season kicks off, I have tried to be as present in all of my kid’s activities as I physically can. Yesterday I sat in Rain’s ballet class observing, torn, and troubled. I watched her struggle with the challenge of learning a new style of dance.  Her teacher is a serious, strict, no BS ballet instructor.  I watched my daughter’s face as she heard constructive criticism, not the usual applauding praise we give her at home with every step she takes.  Even her funny jumps and creative expressionistic versions of her own spontaneous choreography bring oohs and aaaahs from our family.  In her new class, she hears a lot of “No, that is not what I did!” or “if this was a different kind of class that may work but this is a BALLET class,” and “No, but we will work on that.”

Rain’s face was crushed; she seemed embarrassed, out of sorts, and quite miserable.  She cried several times, leaving class to the comfort of my arms, only to return with me sitting on the classroom floor (with teacher’s permission of course).  I felt so sad for her and wondered if she is cut out for ballet and serious dance.  Our living room “Dancing with the Stars” dance-offs hardly prepped her for the serious vibe in a strict ballet class.

She asked to quit several times (despite her dad’s tattoo that reads in Chinese I WILL NEVER QUIT), and asked for my presence in each class she attended.  She felt safe having me there and my looks of encouragement comforted her enough to continue trying.

Then we sat down for a heart to heart.  Despite my impulse to take her out and hold her to happiness, I know the value of honest constructive criticism even at her tender age.  I empowered her teacher, explaining to Rain that she is very good, that I trust her, and she is only trying to make Rain a better dancer.  I tenderly told Rain that she had to work hard to be good at anything and that most great things do not come easily. I told her that all the dancers she admires have had ballet training and never gave up in their process.  I also gave Rain the option of not studying to be a dancer, which I know she is beyond passionate about.

She loves all of her classes except the hardest one and is now learning how to stick with something that does not come naturally. (Brings me back to my DWTS competition experience.)  I think that is such a valuable life lesson for her but as a mother, my immediate impulse is to save and protect.  In her first class, I could have soothed her and taken her home when she started to break down.  Trust me, I wanted to.  But the value of learning to work through her challenges and accept constructive criticism and grow from it certainly outweighed her momentary sadness.

Real life is not full of phony praises unless all your friends BS you on a daily basis.  I sure hope mine do NOT and I will not encourage my children to think they are great at the things they are not. I much prefer to empower them with the strength to work to be better and focus on what they love even if it is challenging.  Honesty and saying “no, that’s not quite right” instead of “yes, perfect” is valuable to me, especially when there is room for improvement.  Don’t get me wrong, I am not one of these stage moms trying to force my kid into dance stardom, I am only committed to teaching her a work ethic that she can grow with.

So Rain has made it through a few weeks now, and knows that her teacher is FOR HER not against her, that I trust her, and that she has to work hard to be great at anything.  Sounds like pretty good stuff to me – even though her sadness breaks my heart even deeper than her own.

I baby my kids in ways of the heart, but tough love sometimes goes a long way and they are better for it.  She is doing triple splits now because she wanted to and worked through her own pain.

I sincerely hope we’re all lucky enough to have teachers in our lives that are honest enough to help us be great. I ask that of my friends, my co-workers and my husband.  Life is full of enough BS; I’ll take honesty any day of the week.

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