When I was a little girl, I desperately wanted to be on the stage. I had vivid dreams of layered-tulle tutus and diamante bodices. I envisioned myself leaping gazelle-like, across the stage and pirouetting so fast the audience would gasp and throw flowers at me, shouting “Encore!”. I couldn’t wait every year for end-of-year concert time. I’d hold my breath and wait for my dancing teacher to announce which girls would be doing solos.
It was never me. And by never, I mean not once.
I watched as my sister wore tutu after tutu and did solo after solo. I got chosen to be in large group numbers, where – if there were gender roles – you could count on me playing the boy. Let’s see… I played a tramp, a cowboy and a street kid.(Costumes were old suit, hideous checkered jumpsuit and torn, dirty clothes respectively.) The harder I tried, the more hideous the role and the more unpretty the costume.
Clearly, my dancing teacher was blind! (It couldn’t have been that I was a gasp bad dancer, right?)
Eventually, after I’d worn all of my dad’s old suits on stage, I gave up my dancing dreams (or realised I was a horrible dancer and cut my losses) and moved on to other things and lived happily ever after.
Fast forward thirty odd years and I’m now the Mum of two little girls. A mum with a clear responsibility to ensure my girls do not suffer the heartache of never wearing a tutu. Me? Scarred and bitter? Never.
As soon as Miss M was big enough, I enrolled her in ballet, where she dutifully (and good-naturedly) went for two years. I got to watch her, tears streaming down my face, in The Nutcracker twice (resplendent in tutu and tiara). Oh, the relief I felt that my little princess would never feel hard done by like I had. Until my princess one day refused to put on her ballet shoes and informed me that she was simply not a girly girl and would rather do kickboxing and karate, like her dad and I. I laughed to myself as I realised I had been putting my childhood dreams onto her. We agreed it was time to move on. We waved the ballet studio (and the perfectly groomed, uptight and not-so-friendly mums) goodbye. (Turns out, neither of us really missed it. Who knew?) Then we traded in ballet shoes and pink tights for boxing gloves, shin pads and a mouthguard. The Dojo became my kids’ new home and they fell passionately in love with the rank odour of old sweat, the sound of gloves hitting pads and the sheer fun of it all. I realised my family and I were far more at ease there than I had ever been in any dance studio. Finally, we’d found our happy place.
This year, however, things changed again. Miss M decided to give Jazz and Acro a go, so back to dancing we went – this time to a more contemporary-style studio where she didn’t have to wear (the dreaded, never to be worn by any self-respecting tomboy) pink. Baby G began dancing too and now, guess what time it is? End-of-year concert time. On the weekend, I was again amidst the dreaded dance moms, as I watched my girls rehearse. I watched the other mums as their kids performed, inwardly laughing at the insanely-huge grins on their faces. Typical Dance Moms. Living vicariously through their kids. Not me – I’m reformed!
Until my girls got on that stage.
Baby G didn’t move – she was like a deer in the headlights. She stood stock-still for the whole number. Miss M was all gangly arms and legs, like a brand new baby giraffe. My heart melted, I clapped and cheered. I took a thousand blurry pictures. I grinned so hard my cheeks hurt.
My girls were – of course, and beyond doubt – the most beautiful, most talented kids on that stage.
And that’s the story of how I became a dance mom. Goofy grin and all.
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