Thursday, June 27, 2013

Crouching Frog, Hidden Tiger Mom

So many milestones in this parenting gig: baby's first smile, the first steps, the first time she gets herself dressed. And then there's one milestone that isn't on most development charts but means so much to me: baby's first JAZZ HANDS!
Super serious jazz hands at that.
I came to dancing too late to be any good. At best I am a "nice mover" who can fool people into thinking my performance is, like, real actual dancing. But dancing is my favorite thing. FAVORITE. There is something most amazing about this utterly non-verbal communication through movement, to me. My head is filled every second of every day with words. My work is mostly moving words in different directions. In my downtime I like to read other people's words. Dancing? NO WORDS. But you can still make someone laugh, or cry, get chills, or fall into awe.

(I am not similarly into mime. Just wanted to clear that up.)

Little A. had her very first dance recital this Saturday. It was a classy affair, with real costumes and real lights in a real big theater and all that. I was expecting to tear up, or flat-out sob, at the sight of my first born \onstage in her wee ballet slippers and tights and stay-put hair-do. I got all of the moisture out of the way at the dress rehearsal. And I am such a sap that I weep at the high-school aged kids dancing too, because they are SO GOOD and they work SO HARD and their parents must be SO PROUD and UGH SO MANY TEARS. That was not a surprise. Giving birth rewired my brain. I never used to cry, period. It was just not my thing. Now I am that person who can never wear mascara or if I do I have to spend a great deal of time looking at the ceiling so my ready tears won't turn me into Alice Cooper. So yeah, tears, no big shocker.

What WAS a surprise was during the week before the recital, I went all Tiger Mom on my poor kid. Let's try it one more time! I heard myself say, over protest and groans. It's so much MORE fun and beautiful if you do the choreography the way Miss Elizabeth taught you! I heard myself say, as she flung herself around in her pre-bedtime sillies. If you want to just dance around you can do that here at home, not at the classes that cost a lot of money! I heard myself say, as she and her sister started to booty-shake every time I turned the music on.

Geez! Chill the fuck out, lady! She is 4, no one is expecting perfection, you're going to take all the fun out of it! 

Yes, you're right. But also? There is a part of me that wishes my parents had pushed me a bit more, who had not let me quit everything the moment it started getting hard. I was (am) willful and stubborn and might have made their lives miserable, but now I am sure I would appreciate mastery of...well...anything. (And as I remember it, I made their lives miserable anyway. I was not a delightful teen.) As I am a half-decent dancer, so am I half-decent at: painting, clarinet, Spanish, etc., etc. The "Dabbler" patch in Girl Scouts was my jam. But dabbling is ultimately dissatisfying. I don't want to teach my girls to dabble. But when do these lessons start? Is 4 too young? (Is almost 40 too old?)

Then the night before the recital, Little A. got sick. Really sick. She had a fever, couldn't eat her supper, and just laid there on the couch like a sad little lump. I was afraid it was strep throat and she would miss her recital and be even more sad and mad and we'd have a miserable weekend. But Saturday morning she woke up, stretched, and said I feel a LOT better! Is it recital day today? I said It sure is! and she said YAY FINALLY! and counted down the minutes until she could get on stage. She seemed a bit nervous before dress rehearsal. She didn't want to talk or hug, unusual for my little barnacle. But then when it was showtime, she did her little routine the best she'd ever done. She found her mark, sang along, hit most of the moves at the right time and didn't smile but claimed that she had fun. And her friends and fans brought her flowers and she was bursting with pride and when is my next recital mama? Can we put these flowers in vase in my room??

And I am tearing up writing about it. GODDAMN YOU HORMONES. So, anyway. I am not so worried that I will smother her enjoyment, not anymore. Because she is going to love what she loves. And I am going to love watching her do it. And I am going to love pushing her to be her very best, even if she doesn't always love it, until she is better than me at everything and I go broke getting her the best teachers. She can use the money she makes from winning the EGOT to put me in the finest nursing home.

CROWDSOURCE PARENTING TIME: What do you guys think? Do you push your kids or just let them be? Is it a personality thing? And, p.s., how on earth do you find the time to do the things YOU need to do to be a more chilled out parent, in general?

xoxo, A

p.p.s. Dress rehearsal video! Little A. is the little froggy closest to the camera.


  1. My mom used to always say "I am just disappointed because I know you can do better than that." so often and I'd be like "Whatever mom, ugh!" but now that I'm a mom, I understand. Sometimes in swim lessons I get annoyed because he's not trying hard enough or paying attention and it's a waste of money. It's hard to put it into perspective and be like "He's not going to be Michael Phelps, I need to chillax." So I understand. Kids don't always try their hardest and we need to instill that in them - the fact that trying hard is something they need to do. But I think that's the key - try your best. When you find yourself yelling "WIN DAMMIT! WIN MISS GRAND SUPREME!" you've gone off the deep end.

    And the things I like to do? I don't know about that. I drink a lot of cheap wine at night. That helps.

  2. Do you think that mini-lecture actually permeated? I mean, I know I never would have been in Alvin Ailey or anything, but with a LITTLE more pushing, who knows? The same with your kiddo - he may not be the next Michael Phelps, but with a little pushing, who knows? Maybe he'll be good enough to get a swim scholarship. Or just make the team in high school. Or at least not be the kid sitting beside the pool at every pool party for the rest of his life. It all seems worth the effort (and the fricking cash money). Maybe it's more instilling the "better to regret the things you DO" idea. Unless the things you DO include sexting or whatever.

    And hooray for cheap wine! Two buck Chuck, 1.5 glasses a night, is my prescription. Self-prescribed but WHATEVER MOM UGH.