I don't like to push my daughter. Instead, I like to plant little seeds all over her mind and wait for her come to me when she's ready. This year, she finally did. "I want to take ballet," she informed, as she hopped on one foot; Popsicle dripping down her arm. "Ballet huh? Well... you'd better hurry and get your shoes on, we're gonna need an outfit!"
On the way to Target, we discussed the necessary attire for taking such a grown up class. "I'll need a tutu and ballet slippers and... uh... I don't know what else?!" As the escalator was nearing the top floor, she slid her hand into mine, "I love you, Mommy," she whispered. "I love you, too, sweetheart." We hurried over to the kids’ section and began shuffling through a tiny ballet rack, in search of just the right shade of pink. After a passionate and extensive debate, we agreed that bubble-gum pink would be best. "Good choice... let's go!" I barked. "No, no, no! I need to try them on!" she demanded. "Just pick one, Isla! Which one do you like best?" She thought for a minute, then looked up and said, "I like THAT one and THAT one... but I need to try them on!" As she spun around into a fuzzy, pink swirl--smiling and giggling at herself in the mirror--I wondered how we got here. I wondered if she'd remember this day when she got a little older, or if it would just become a faded blur, much like the image that danced before my eyes. We spent the next half hour in the dressing room; comparing skirt twirls for comfort and ease of motion. "Do you like it?" I asked. "No," she said... "I love it!"
That night, as I lie awake in bed, I thought about the time my mother made me take "organ" lessons (not that kind of organ) as a child. I assume that we got the organ to offset the cost of a real piano, but I didn't mind. I loved to play it (for fun) and did so without the ability to read music. For me, it was the challenge of finding the right key to match the sound in my head that drew me in, but mom felt I needed to step it up a notch. I didn't want to do it, but I found myself shaking my head yes as she talked about how much it would mean to my father. Weeks later, I would be sitting on a tiny bench, listening to a very bald man named "Mr. Sullivan" beat his fist against my bench in disapproval. "That is NOT the right key!" he would scream; and, with each beat of his fist, I found myself becoming less interested in what he had to say. Ironically, my passion for playing ended the same day as my lessons, and I never touched the organ again.
When I picked her up after ballet class Tuesday, her eyes were puffy and red. "We had a ruff start," the instructor informed me. "What happened?" I asked, while sneaking a wink in to my daughter. She went on to explain that there weren't many kids in class that day and Isla seemed to be a bit nervous. When we got in the car, I asked her how the class was. "Were you scared?" I asked. "I was at first. I didn't like it at first because none of my friends were there, but then I liked it." "That's okay. Sometimes it's scary when you try something new. Do you want to do it again?" I asked. "Yes. I want to do it EVERY day!" she replied. I smiled at her in the mirror as we started down the street. She smiled back, "I'll teach you how to do it, too, mommy!" And so... she did.