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?