Thursday, February 20, 2014

A Fine Line

When I was a kid, I got to pick one thing to do.  I took ballet for a year, when I was very young.  I liked it, I can't remember why we stopped going.  I took piano lessons for about a year.  I hated it, I never practiced...I was horrible.  Same with the trumpet I tried to play for...about a year.  My mom's rule was that I couldn't quit.  If I signed up for something, I couldn't quit it.

Eventually, I found softball and that's what I stuck with.  I was always playing softball.  Fall ball, winter conditioning, spring ball, summer travel ball. If I wasn't at home, I was playing softball.

As an adult, I'm a bit regretful that I have zero musical ability, but as a kid I never felt sad that I stopped any of the instruments I tried.  It just wasn't me.  It probably still isn't, but it would be nice to sit down at a piano and play something every once in awhile.

Now kids are so scheduled.  My kids are all under the age of 7 and already we've done ballet, tap, jazz, cheerleading, swimming, soccer, and girl scouts.  Ainsley has asked to take gymnastics and ice skating lessons.

When you work full time and have three kids, it is tough to do everything your kids want.  I can't sign her up for a gymnastics class at 4 on a Tuesday afternoon.  We can't go to swim practices at 7 AM every summer day.  Most of our extracurricular activities happen on the weekends.

Since Ainsley was 3, we've had dance every Saturday morning.  She has loved dance.  Now, let me be clear...she's not the best dancer.  I see the other girls in her class, she is right in the middle of the pack.  There are girls who are just naturally good at it.  Ainsley is not naturally good.  But she has worked hard and always learns her steps.  The thing that Ainsley has over most of the girls I've seen her dance with, is personality.  She is a performer.  She has imagination and energy.  She may tangle her feet during a shuffle ball change, but she does it with a smile on her face and lightening in her eyes.

At least she did.

This year, things changed.  We had to go with a different teacher.  Same studio that is owned by friends, but now the owner was no longer her teacher.  The owner that Ainsley has just adored from day one.  The owner that was teaching ballet, then tap/jazz beginning at 4PM on Wednesdays.  We live 30  minutes from the studio and Ainsley doesn't get off the bus until 4:15ish.

Immediately I saw a change.  This teacher had a different style, one that I knew immediately was not going to work with Ainsley.  I wanted to give her a shot.  She was new, all of these girls had been dancing together with the same teacher for years and she needed to assess their abilities.  But as the weeks went on and I watched Ainsley laying down in class, twirling during instruction, and talking to herself in the mirror - I knew this wasn't working.

About three weeks in, it was a fight to get her to go.  That was in September.  I told her she had to make it to the winter show.  They had already started preparing and she had made a commitment and it wasn't fair to bail on her teacher and class.  She made it to the winter show, even though I felt like she had learned next to nothing.  She didn't know her steps and for the first time ever, was nervous to be performing.

After the winter show I spoke with her old teacher.  She thought maybe we could bring Ainsley to her class and just not attend the first hour of ballet, but keep her in tap/jazz.

We agreed.  Ainsley agreed.  It would mean giving up after school cheerleading, but Ainsley so bad wanted to be back in her class.  So now I leave work a few minutes early on Wednesday, pick up Cohen, pick up Ainsley and rush across town to get there by 5.

The first week we were 10 minutes late.  As we walked in the classroom, I could tell Ainsley was nervous.  And I could see that she was behind the other girls.

Last night, we were right on time, but as soon as I sat her down to change her shoes the tears started and she told me she didn't want to go.  She had been saying it all week, but I thought she'd be fine once we got there.  It took me and the teacher 10 minutes to convince her to stay.  So she danced, through tears at first, but then her smile returned and I saw her laughing by the end.

There is a fine line between quitting and knowing when its time to move on.

Sure, I'd love to be able to play the piano...but know what?  There was only once that I wanted to quit softball.  I played for 11 years and only once did I entertain the idea of quitting.  I started at 7, played all the way through high school, tried out for the college team and that's when I knew.  It was time to move on.  I did and I don't regret it.

But with a 6 year old, how do you know?  It is a struggle to get her there.  It is something that I know nothing about, so I can't even help her.  I don't like seeing her cry.  I don't want her to think it's okay to quit, but I also don't want to force her into something she doesn't enjoy anymore.

Right now, I 'm pushing her into it because I know how much she once loved it.  I'm trying to view it like I view forcing her to eat broccoli.  I know what's best...but do I?  Or does she?

I'm hoping it gets better, that I see that big ole grin on her face even when she misses a step.  That she lights up the stage even when she's turning the opposite direction of everyone else.  She is not the best dancer.  She will not be a Rockette or perform with the American Ballet...but I do love to watch her love dance.

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