One of my greatest challenges as a mother – and as an unschooling mother in particular – is honoring the interests of my children even when the collide with my own. I'm not talking about the army helicopter model kit or the requests to bring home a Berenstain Bears book from the library. I'm talking about bigger things. Like ballet.
I did not take ballet classes as a child (or dance classes of any kind) so the appeal is lost on me. I was a certified tomboy and the thought of wearing a tutu would have sent me screaming off into the woods to hide in the mud under a fallen tree. As an adult I have seen the gaggles of sequin clad children on our town's Main Street during performance night and wondered secretly "What were their parents thinking?" as I worried for the implication of all that glitter and glitz on girls so young. You could say ballet and Barbie occupy the same part of my brain in that: 1) The kids will enjoy it to the extent of their own personalities, but 2) at what future cost? I worry about my daughter being exposed to body image issues at way too young of an age or asking for me to put make-up on her face when I believe that nothing could make her more beautiful than her own natural sparkle. I worry about a four-year old striving for perfection at a time when life should be about the joy and freedom of play.
What can I say. I am a notorious over-thinker. Ask anyone who knows me well and they'll tell you.
So Lupine danced. And wore a flashy tutu. She climbed up on stage in front of more people than I could count under the bright lights and felt no pressure to be perfect. She didn't even ask for make-up. Though I bought her a ticket so she could sit with us, she chose to spend 1/2 of the big show down in front with her friends – not in the protective arms of her family.
And, um, she loved it.
In truth nothing detrimental came to my child because of a season of ballet and an afternoon of bling. Indeed, she thrived. (Thrived in the innocent four-year-old "we get to wear tutus!" sort of way.) She made new friends. She learned about boundaries through getting to know children very different from herself ("Ask her if you can hug her first next time. I think you surprised her.") The big performance was a blast for her, seeing the older children dancing and applauding their performances "so hard that my hands hurt from all that clapping!"
Yes, Lupine learned a great deal through this experience and those lessons went beyond the arabesque. She has a new best friend whom she never would have met without ballet. She stuck with something, week after week with joy. She is obsessed with France and wants to learn to speak french. (This includes requests for "French knots on all my clothes".) And she found joy in playful dance.
And me? I learned a great deal too. Like to sometimes push my worrying brain aside and trust her to know her own truths and to find her own joy, though they will be different from my own.
These are the lessons of mothehood.