Dear Dance (A Mama Kat Writing Prompt)

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This week, Kat’s writing prompt number three asked: Do you love it or hate it? An open letter to your child’s latest obsession. I have had my fill of snark lately, which is why I decided not to write an open letter to gaming, which seems bent on stealing every last one of my son’s brain cells, or Toddlers and Tiaras, which my daughter loves to watch and I must admit I can hardly tear myself away from when I walk by.

Instead, I am taking a bit of liberty with the prompt and writing an open letter to dance, which has been a part of my daughter’s life for a very long time.

Dear Dance,

After I excitedly announced to 3-year-old Tenley that I had signed her up for Junior Gym at preschool, she announced that she had to take ballet, which was a new option at the school. There was no arguing. She was going to take ballet.

Three-year-old Tenley with her first teacher, Miss Christa.

Dance, Tenley’s love has roots as ancient as a dinosaur.

Tenley’s First Dance Recital
Photo Credit: Active Images

Thanks to you, Tenley is as likely to be listening to “Carnival of the Animals” by Camille Saint-Saëns on her iPod as she is to “Shake That” by LMFAO.

You have given her role models.

Tenley with Amy Lowe, Owner of Performing Arts Center of Tallahassee

And friends galore.

Tenley and Friends
Day of Dance, February 2011
Photo Credit: Bill Lucas

And the thrill of doing what you love (and moving past animal costumes).

June 2011
Photo Credit: Bill Lucas

Admittedly, I still struggle with your expense and any requirement that involves altering costumes. But we will keep working it out.

In her dance program ad this year, I used the quote “Dancing faces you towards Heaven, whichever direction you turn,” by Sweetpea Tyler.  Thank you, dance, for pointing Tenley towards Heaven. May she never lose sight of you.

Love,

A grateful mom.

Wordless Wednesday (Tutus and …… No, Not Tiaras ….. Edition)

I have been a “dance mom” for a very long time now. For me,

Tennies and Tulle …

(Photo Credit: Amy Lowe/Performing Arts Center of Tallahassee)
…sometimes speak “girl talk” better than
 “Tutus and Tiaras.”

Wordless Wednesday (Dancing Girls – and Boys – Edition)

There were little girls …
And bigger girls (my bigger girl to be precise)
Photo Credit:  Bill Lucas
And grown-up girls (and boys):
Photo Credit: Bill Lucas

On a beautiful Tallahassee day that led hearts of all ages to feel like dancing.

Uh Oh – Did I Snuff Out My Children’s “Beginner Minds”? (A Mama Kat’s Writing Workshop Prompt)

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There were several great prompts on Mama Kat’s this week. The one I got is certainly familiar territory to our family:

It has been said that kids these days are pushed into too many extra-curricular activities and are not given the freedom to play and be bored and to use their imaginations. Is this true?

I used to (non humbly) marvel at myself as I laid out my children’s things each night for the upcoming day. At our busiest, Tenley would need a gymnastics leo and the rest of her gym stuff and dance paraphernalia (leo, tights, bobby pins, hair nets, ballet shoes, tap shoes, jazz shoes). There was a time when I would drop her off at gym, sit through her workout, pull her out of gym a few minutes early, and she would change leos (this took the talent of an … acrobat!) in the car between gym and dance. I actually think at one point, I was leaving my son at the gym to do his gymnastics class while I was transporting Tenley to dance.
 
Food in these situations? In the car if at all. I have many memories of walking my son through his spelling words while sitting in the gym seats or at dance – I bought pre-sharpened pencils so that we would always have them in the glove compartment. If we could have fit a tiny sink and kitchen in there I probably would have tried!

I think the interchange between parents and children in which kids say “moooooom, I’m booored!” is a lose-lose proposition – how many times have you ever heard a kid say, “right, Mom, it didn’t occur to me that reading a book or playing a board game or helping you fold clothes or getting a head start on my research paper could dispel my boredom!” Having grown up as an only child, I may see this question from an entirely different perspective – I was telling my son as we were discussing this prompt about all of my imaginary friends I had growing up, and how my parents probably thought I was nuts when they heard all of the one-sided conversations! He said he has had imaginary friends (but he must keep the dialogue in his head).

This prompt, rephrased, asks “are we keeping our kids so darned busy that their brains have no down time, no imperative to ‘dig deep’ into the crevices — into the spaces where dreams and whimsies germinate, and where our unconscious selves deal with the ‘bad things’ in our lives?”

In his blog “Where Do Ideas Come From?” Seth Godin lists several points that apply to overscheduled kids and burnt out executives alike, such as:

Ideas don’t come from watching television
Ideas come from nature
Ideas come … when we’re not trying
Ideas fear experts, but adore beginner’s mind (how often do we as parents rush to “fill in the blanks” for our children, negating the power of “beginner’s mind”?)

and one of my favorites:

Ideas often come from reading a book (yeah!!)

For the full text of Seth Godin’s “ideas” blog, click here.

When I look back on those hectic years of activity on top of activity, I think the thing I would be more sensitive to (in retrospect) is gauging the children’s motivation to be involved in the activity. I tend to want to be busy (duh) but each child is different. Some of them thrive on having several balls up in the air while others only feel pressure. As the children have gotten older, I have seen Tenley “self select” the ways in which her focus honed in on what she most wanted to do (dance). With Wayne, my son, I quietly backed off from registering him for stuff that he had casually mentioned, and learned to wait until he had initiated the idea repeatedly (i.e., Pop Warner Football).

Was there, mixed in with all that, enough room for their “beginner minds” to flourish? These two are rarely found with a nose in a book (much to my chagrin), but I hope that family Sundays spent with cousins by the pool, weekends at gym and dance meets where there is plenty of “messing around time” between the “official” activities, and my conviction that they’ll still turn out to be pretty cool adults even if their “childhood” resumes weren’t packed with non stop activity, will result in two minds that are fertile ground for playful ideas.

Photo Credit: Filomena Scalise

Hemmed In (A Mama Kat Writing Workshop Prompt)

For my Mama Kat writing prompt today, the random number generator handed me number five:

I told you so! Write about a time you felt validated.
Since I want to believe that I will feel validated about this (someday), I am going to write about a time when I will feel validated. It ain’t happenin’ yet.
Before I babble on and on about the role of alterations as the catalyst for a nasty mother/daughter fight, I want to say that it feels ridiculously self indulgent to blog about raised hemlines and taken-in seams. Another mom lost her young daughter (who was possibly starting to say, like my youngest child, “you know, I am a preteen already, mom) in the death of Christina Taylor Green. Locally, the communities of Tallahassee and Orange Park (my hometown) lost Ashley Cowie, a 21-year-old woman who was accidentally shot. We can’t all be together for a moment of silence, but take a moment to say a prayer in celebration of their time here on earth and in empathy for their families and friends.
Now, about the hemming. Hopefully after I get this issue out of my system, I’ll remember to return to the original point: validation.
Maybe my comfort level with the alterations process (hemming, taking in of seams, replacement of zippers, etc.) exists because I grew up with a mom who sewed. I didn’t appreciate it at the time, especially when the “cool kids” were wearing Calvin Klein jeans and I was wearing homemade pants with fabric bought from TG and Y. Years later, when I was at an alterations shop having some alterations made to a dress that my mom had originally made, the woman who owned the shop said, “wow, I would hire your mom – she is so careful with her stitching.” I never adequately expressed my appreciation to my mom for all that sewing, and for the extra love that was stitched in along with the thread. Here are a couple of examples of her work:
Fast forward to now, when I am the mom and have a daughter to clothe. When Tenley got her allotment from the gene pool, she got some great things (flexibility, tenacity, cute freckles) but she did not get long legs. This is a problem because practically every piece of clothing sold in a typical “juniors” store fits her in the waist and hips but has inches of fabric to spare at the hemline. Over the years, I had almost learned to stop saying, “we could get it hemmed” because I would inevitably hit a brick wall. Hemming would purportedly “mess up the flare” (possibly true), make it “look funny,” or in some other way completely negate the coolness of the piece of clothing. Somehow we have made it through 14 years and had (I thought) reached some type of detente when a new issue arose:  “the dress.” 

Tenley’s dance teacher recommended a specific dress from Delia’s as her costume for her upcoming dance solo. The first time I tried to order it in an extra small, I hit a timeout or some other technical obstacle so decided to try later. By the time I tried later, a medium was the smallest size left. I wrote Delia’s to ask if there was any chance of an extra small reappearing (no, it was a clearance item); I scoured internet consignment shops; I looked everywhere. I finally wrote the dance teacher and asked about getting the medium and having the sides taken in, the shoulder straps shortened, and the hem taken up. She thought that would work!

When I picked my daughter up that day to take her to dance, I told an outright lie and said the medium/alterations plan had been the teacher’s idea (I figured it would have more clout coming from her). The immediate response? Something along the lines of, “you know I don’t like alterations.” ARGHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH. The conversation deteriorated from there, way past alterations to me losing it over the light that would not turn green, a different debate over a small detail of the dance life …. I am surprised we didn’t go down a “tomato tomahto” route.

I tried to explain (calmly) that I feel hurt when she does not believe me when I am telling her something that is based on fact and life experience. I dropped her off at dance, still feeling unsettled.

A few hours later I finished listening to Mitch Albom’s For One More Day.

There is a line fairly early on in the book that lays out the premise for the chapters that follow:

“…you can go your whole life collecting days, and none will outweigh the one you wish you had back.”
After the audiobook ended, I immediately sent my daughter a text message trying to find some calmer ground. Doing that made me feel better at least.

My daughter’s and my differences over the basic efficacy of alterations still ticks me off. I suspect it always will. Just maybe, though, one day – ten years from now – twenty – twenty-five, she and I will get together for lunch. I will have rolled up my pants because I didn’t make it to the alterations lady yet. She will be raving about the way the hem of her new pants breaks perfectly over the top of her foot since she got them altered by Sew Now Alterations.

                    And I will feel validated ….
                                                                    …..someday.

Wordless Wednesday (Defying Gravity Edition)

I “Elphaba’d” Myself This Week on Wicked Day (10/30/10)
but Tenley (foreground) really gets the credit for “defying gravity” in her American Academy of Ballet Performance (10/23/10), for which she was awarded a gold medal

(photo credit: Bill Lucas)