The things we pass on

I saw it coming from a mile away. Seated on the hard wooden bench pushed against the wall to wall mirrors, I saw her face go red, the timid half-smile replaced with a wide-eyed look of terror. The eyes going wide in an attempt to not let the tears welling in the tear ducts overwhelm her and the anger at herself because she knew that they would. And sure enough, they did. She looked at me, knowing I knew what was going on, and the tears came rushing out. In seconds I had a nine year old girl buried in the crook of my neck.

The open ballet class. There was a total of six little girls and only four parents watching. Very small, very intimate, but to my daughter more terrifying than the huge recital they put on at the end of the year. Why, you may ask yourself? There was only a handful of parents and girls she’s been taking lessons with for years. What’s so scary?

One word: solo.

She refuses to perform alone. It has been building up for months now. She has only managed to do it in class once. Now, as you can imagine, for a little girl who wants to be a ballet dancer, this is a problem.

The worst part is, that in that moment, when she was refusing to do the solo and being forced into the spotlight against her will by her teacher and her classmate (more on that queen bee later) it was like looking into a mirror that showed me my nine year old self. I knew exactly what was happening way before the major breakdown because it was EXACTLY what my reaction would have been.

Great. I have some good qualities. I am pretty organized. I make a mean oatmeal chocolate chip cookie. Why couldn’t she have inherited these traits? But noooo, I had to go giving her debilitating shyness as my legacy.

Since that Thursday, she had another open class where she once again was one out of two girls who refused to do the solo. I’ve talked to her about not letting her shyness make her miss experiences she would regret not having later. I have told her to face her fears and to keep challenging herself. I have told her about my own experiences and how I had a hard time getting over my own shyness. But, as is the case with much of parenting, I can’t do it for her. So I am stuck spouting platitudes, and praying that she is at least thinking about what I said.

Is it just me, or does parenting feel like trying to hit a can in the desert with a rubber ball from outer space?

5 thoughts on “The things we pass on

  1. Hi. I haven't been doing my usual self-righteous commenting lately. I still read your blog. I got nothing to add here, especially as I am not a parent BUT I do have super keen observational skills and a super keen memory and I remember trying to fake illnesses to get out of piano recitals because I knew I didn't have my pieces memorized and I remember how awful it was to sit there on the stage and not remember what comes next and hearing whispers & impatient shuffling in the audience. and feeling anger at myself for not being prepared, and anger at my teacher for making me do it when we both knew it would be a DISASTER. So yeah. Sometimes I think it's better to refuse to do something than to be cajoled into doing it and being enveloped in shame when it all goes wrong.And yep, again, not a parent, but I have a sickly clear remembrance of being a kid, and being told by adults that I might regret not having this experience later in life never helped. (and my own special debilitating shyness prevented me from becoming an Irish Dancer, which I am actually really happy about today, as that was definitely my mother's dream) I couldn't realistically imagine being a teenager, let alone a freaking adult. I think for a lot of kids there is no discernible 'future', there is just the humiliating here and now.from an adult who sometimes wishes she had done things differently as a kid, but she didn't know how to be any different than herself.

  2. also: who says she hasn’t inherited your culinary prowess – or will in the future?Or maybe she will develop some interesting coping mechanism and will become bigger than Twyla Tharp. She’s a dancer, right?As your shyness made you who you are today, I think it’s pretty awesome that she’s following in your footsteps. and now, I return to blog silence. (my apologies.)

  3. you know , be it said runs in families ..having to sing alto in a duet trying to remember the harmony and many times peeing my pants.but mom always said that it was sooo good .it made the pain easier .. and also having to face an audience of french/english speaking folk when you spoke neither… so take heart ,little one , there could be worse scenarios ,,says your mimi

  4. First of all, French Panic, I hear you. I also remember being a child and hearing the voices of my parents say things, but have no idea how it related to me. Now I am on the end of that scenario- I am the distant voice saying incomprehensible things because that is about all I can do.Oh yeah- and be there- and still tell her that it was awesome and that I am proud of her. And I agree with your last line- maybe that is why watching your kid pave the way for the same regrets as yourself is so painful. And Mimi, you are the best mother-in-law ever. I love you, even if you are a pants pee-er…

  5. I think she was really brave to go to the other open class. I wouldn’t have gone at all. I still refuse to go to the adult recitals where I take cello lessons. So far I haven’t regretted it. You’re right about parenting, it certainly isn’t an exact science. But hang in there, coach, you’re doing a great job!

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