Our daughter Emily has told us, why did I act so afraid when I was growing up? Why didn't I just have fun? We never noticed, but she knows how she felt. And she thinks she knows how her daughter might feel now (her blog's here):
The girls have been looking forward to it for a week or so and to be honest, I have as well...pink images in my head of them twirling in tutus side by side. Monday went surprisingly well. By "well" I mean they went. They did the craft. They ate the snack. They didn't cry.
The teacher told me there was a glitch on Tuesday, with an incident in the middle of class where Stella didn't want to let go of her sisters' hand, so by Wednesday morning, I got the "I don't want to wear a tutu" speech. When I asked her what she would like to do, she said nothing, only made a motion with her hands, as if holding an imaginary baseball bat. So that left Gracie (or, Ava Grace as she so articulately told me she wants to be called this week) on her own, to navigate through the rest of the week, sister-less.
It didn't phase her much. She came down the stairs every morning this week, tutu in hand. Aside from the multiple hugs and kisses she asked for before I dropped her off each morning, she willingly walked into her class and remained there without tears.
One thing she hasn't done all week, however, is actually dance. She simply stood in class (or sat, at times), interested but disengaged. I found myself to be slightly irritated by this. What's the big deal? Why won't she just have fun and be a kid? Why so serious? I wondered how the recital would go at the end of the week with parents watching. I fully expected her to find us in the audience and walk directly to us, refusing to remain in the spotlight. I was prepared for that.
Instead, she simply did that which she had done all week. She stood there. I think in some way, she believed she was performing, showing us what she has been doing at dance camp. But while watching her stand there in the midst of twirling girls in tutus, I found myself to be overcome with compassion for this small brunette, standing with purpose, focused intently on those dancing around her, determined to be there in the midst of the dancers but just as determined not to dance. I know how much she truly enjoys being there. I know how much she loves to dance. What I don't understand is what causes one girl to dance while the other stands motionless, paralyzed with uncertainty?
The mommy in me dismisses her behavior as shyness or maybe even stubbornness. But watching her today, I think I saw her. Really saw her. Not as my daughter, but as a person. A girl. And I could relate with her. In fact, I saw myself in her. And I felt the feelings with her...of wanting to be a part of something, maybe even thinking I am a part. But of not fully experiencing the fullness of the dance because of fear or anxiety or expectations. But I saw her courage to continue to stand in the midst of her fear.
And for different reasons than I thought I would be, I was proud.