My Emmy is the bravest, silliest, sweetest, most wonderful girl I know. For six months this year, she took ballet classes after school in preparation for her first recital showcased in a real theater on a real stage! Every Monday we drove to her class, scurried inside, whipped her into her leotard and tights, tucked her hair into the best bun Mommy could accomplish and then off she went to class. She learned the five positions, how to tendu and plié, and she learned self-discipline and the rewards that come with hard work. Being a ballet dancer is no easy task, but she looked forward to class every week and always bounced happily downstairs at the end.
As the date of her recital neared, Emmy was very excited. I look back and wonder, Did I imagine her excitement? Was I being a stage mom and pushing her onstage? but the answer is no. She worked hard, she loved her routine, she wanted to please her teacher and dance with her classmates, and getting a fancy ribbon and flower for her hair was just a plus. She was a little nervous, but at the rehearsal, she was hamming it up and having a great time dancing, and my heart was so excited for how she had grown.
She was all smiles as she took her seat and we waited for the show to begin. I was so happy to be right across the aisle from her, where I could send her an encouraging wave and smile or blow her one more kiss before she went on. This is the last picture I took of her before the lights went out…
…and it was almost my last of the night.
After the house lights went down, she absolutely panicked. I mean panicked. Hyperventilating, sobbing, trying to get to us, losing-her-mind meltdown. I didn’t thinks he’d go on. I didn’t think she would even make it through the show. I scurried over to her spot and she sat in my lap and sobbed while I frantically thought of what to say. How do I encourage her to go on if she is terrified? How do I push her if she isn’t ready? But then I thought, I know she is ready. I saw it in the rehearsal. She danced in groups of three with her friends, holding their hands and smiling as she peeped through the window between her classmates. I know she could do it, and that she would regret it if she didn’t. I just had to remind her that she could, while making her think it was her decision and supporting her if she decided she couldn’t. Going up there for herself wasn’t persuasive enough. I needed something that would make her put aside her terror of being onstage in front of hundreds of people, the fear of messing up outweighing all her pride and excitement. So I reminded her about her routine–thank goodness I had seen part of dress rehearsal or I wouldn’t have known any of it–and about how dancers depend on each other for spacing and for transitions and to tell a story. I reminded her that she was the middle of the group of three, and that without her, her friends wouldn’t know where to go in their windows. That’s when she put her head up and considered. Maybe she couldn’t get up there and dance for herself and for all the hard work she had put it, but she would get up there for her friends.
And she did.
Maybe there weren’t any of the excited smiles I saw throughout that day, maybe she wasn’t exactly as sassy as I knew she could be. But she stuck it out and went up there to be there for her friends, and for that, I was even more proud of her than I could have thought possible.
Of course, as soon as she was offstage, all fear was forgotten and she was thrilled and all smiles once again, pleased with her accomplishment and said she had fun. The trauma was over, and she enjoyed the rest of the performances and was happy to go up with the big girl dancers for their final bow. I’m so proud of my little dancer, not only for how dedicated she was to dance this year, but because she really did learn what it takes to be a friend and part of a team.
Brava, my amazing ballerina!