Lupine’s Choice.












This photo shoot was all Lupine. The very serious, dramatic expressions, the poses, the props -  everything. We were on our way to her performance on Saturday and she just cut loose. (I think she had seen some of the portraits that other girls had taken, posing dramatically in their costumes so she just went with it.)

We've had an interesting couple of days. It's been a ballet rehearsal and performance marathon. And she was my only child performing – and in only one dance. I have a friend with three kids, five dances, two rehearsal times, and two performance times. Plus school. Mercy. I'm don't know how I could sustain that. (Not gracefully I suspect.)

Lupine's new tutu was so picky that she either could not perform or needed to wear something under it (a stained tank top from my underwear-making bin in the sewing room saved the day). Also the feet of the ballet tights were so uncomfortable that we had to cut them off so that the seams didn't make here scream. Her teacher is incredible and didn't bat an eye when I proposed these (less than beautiful) adaptations. So grateful for her on many levels.

And we went to the performance. And we watched. And she danced. But at the end of the performance Lupine was fidgety. I got the feeling that she was done. Last year she was beaming, captivated, and enthusiastic right through the finale. Clapping until her hands ached. This year she was… done. That's the only way I can describe it. The magic had worn off. For the finale when all of the dancers took the stage together she looked at me and said emphatically, "I'm not going up there. That is way too many people."

She was done.

When we got home she had a rough evening. It was late – bedtime late – and we still had to eat dinner. (The same rhythm happened the night before after dress rehearsal so she was already on empty.) Lupine asked for a ride in her old baby carrier that I've saved it just for these moments and a sippy cup of milk. She needed to be the baby again. To feel the comforting warmth of being held against her mama body while dinner was cooking. So I strapped he to my back and we talked softly while I prepared dinner.

Before bed I validated. "Today was very busy."

"Yes," she said, welling with tears. "And I didn't even get to play all day long." She decided that two years of ballet was enough. The busyness of performance day was just too much.

In all honesty I feel a mix of gladness that she found something to love for two years, and also a deep relief that she was done (at least for the time being) by the wee age of 5. Before she began to ask for makeup. Or questions her body. Or all of the other worries that I talked about in yesterday's post. That she was able to distill out the magic and leave it at that.

Yes, there were some challenges. I watched her concern as child in tears was still taken to the stage by her mom to dance despite her objections. I watched her cover her ears because of the too-loud music, and hide her face in my lap from the dances she didn't like. I watched her checking out the flowers that other dancers carried and wonder if she mattered as much as they did if they had so many and she had so few. I watched her physical, visual, and auditory overstim mount over the course of the weekend.

But really there was mostly magic. Ballet was where she met her best friend, a girl from another town she never would have known were it not for dance. Dancing was something she looked forward to all week for two years ("Tuesday is my favorite day because it's ballet day!") There was plenty of magic but now it's time for a break.

Lupine still chose to dance on stage with her friends on Saturday, but she's done now. She's ready to take off the picky tutu and put on some comfortable riding clothes. "Mama, if I quit ballet can we ride horses again?"

Yes baby. We can.

20 thoughts on “Lupine’s Choice.

  1. Cassandra says:

    Wow…this was an awesome example of being present in the moment with your child. This little story is going to stay with me for a while. I love the way you let the day unfold as it was, without judgement. You became keenly aware that Lupine was detaching from her interest in ballet and let her have those feelings in a safe environment. And when she needed to revert a little bit at the end of the day, you knew just what to do. I’m very inspired! Thanks sista.

  2. Noel says:

    Love, love, love the dramatic poses! Have a 5 year old that likes to do her own poses as well. “Where does she get it from???” I ask. Also love that her teacher was cool with the wardrobe adaptations. One could only hope for such understanding on all levels of life. Good for Lupine for knowing what was best for her and feeling the freedom to express it. Here’s to you and your family as you continue to develop your rhythm and what works best for you. Cheers!

  3. Aron says:

    As a dancer this makes me sad, I learned so much from dance. Grace, poise coordination, confidence etc. But I also realize it isn’t for everyone. Dancing has been my hobby for 21 years and I hope some day that my baby will grow up to be a dancer but this post made me realize that its ok if she doesn’t. Maybe she wont do anything my husband or I do and thats ok because she will find her own calling. But for now I’ll still dress her in tutu’s and tap shoes. And, you have a very sweet teacher (mine would never allow those things on her stage and all ages are required to have stage makeup) I remember I wanted to quit several times when I was young and my mother wouldn’t let me, she told me I could not quit in the middle of the class (and she probably already paid for the lessons, costumes, shoes etc) I never had a crying meltdown or lost interest and I’m glad my parents seen my potential and didn’t let me quit. I love that you are so in tune with your daughter to know what she was feeling. Maybe she just needs a summer break (or maybe not) Thank you for inspiring me and enlightening me.

  4. Rachel Wolf says:

    Thank you for your note, Aron. One of the reasons I felt relief was actually after watching a couple of the older girls dance. While most of them were beaming and clearly in their bliss, there were a couple who I wondered if they were there out of love or obligation. While their dancing was beautiful there was something in the eyes… I cant quantify it… just something that made me wonder if they were doing it because they should or because it was their joy.

    I dont think Lupine will ever stop dancing. That she loves. It just might be the organized version that slips away. At least for now. Thanks again for your words. Blessings to you and your little one.

  5. Rachel Wolf says:

    The teacher made some even more amazing adaptations for a little girl in the class with some challenges with her mobility. I get goosebumps just thinking about it. She is a this is how the world should work kind of person. Love her.

  6. Nahuatl Vargas says:

    It almost makes me cry, a mix of fellings.

    My son had a dance short experience, he really wanted to do it, but the only class I was able to get him in (it was not even ballet) he got discriminated for being a boy and his teacher was mean.

    I wish we would find a healthy class some day.

  7. Kari says:

    My daughter also loves to dance and, at 5, I put her in a ballet class like Lupine was in. It was the only year we did it because the emphases seemed to be all about body image and the one big performance and not the love of dance. I felt uncomfortable with the competition and pressure to perform that seemed to going on between 5 year olds – or at least their mothers! Since then, my daughter is now 10, we found a better situation. Our local homeschool co-op offers a bi-weekly dance class(that’s the only class we participate in). It’s small but taught by a professional dancer. There is no pressure of a final performance and she is able to be herself and enjoy dancing for dancing. It brings her joy and that’s what is important.

  8. Rachel Wolf says:

    The mothers and children I have interacted with have been wonderful. I will truly miss my 1/2 hour with a community of women I treasure if we aren’t signed up next year. I considered starting up a “global dance for girls and boys” class for our homeschooling group, but I’m not a dancer and I’m not sure who I could tap into to teach. I thought it would be so fun to end the year with tie-dying shirts or silks, then having a dance party together to celebrate the end of season. Maybe you’ll nudge me into going for it!

  9. Rachel Wolf says:

    Such a shame. My friend’s son danced this year and it was adorable. The boys always seem to steal the show here. Their dance (all 3-5 year olds) ended with her son twirling each girl before she walked off stage. It was adorable.

  10. Susanne says:

    I wish my parents had been more yielding when I was “done” with activities. In their eyes it was “quitting”. Sure playing the piano for two years was fun, but I was 8 and didn’t really grasp the concept of lessons for life. Adults forget that children are fickle – they want to try lots of things but not necessarily stick with it forever. I also don’t think that children are somehow underdeveloped if they don’t play an instrument or sport. I am always bewildered by young adults in my generation who have played an instrument since age 3. Think of all the things they DIDN’T do because of monastic like focus on one activity. I tell myself now that my future kids won’t be forced to play soccer for 12 seasons or be married to the flute through high school if they don’t want to be. They can choose a couple of activities a year, but our lives will not revolve around traveling to tournaments and such. I hated being dragged to my brother’s soccer games every weekend until I was old enough to stay home. Lupine is a trooper – she saw something through but knew at the end that she was done. I think that’s an admirable trait in a wee one – to give it your best to the end but to know when to stop. And kudos to you for letting her know that it’s A-ok.

  11. Jenny Miller says:

    I just have to say, way to go Mama! It’s wonderful you could pick up Lupine’s cues and see what she really needed. Children need to be heard, even if they don’t speak. So many times we are accused of babying our children, when that’s what they need. Sometimes you just need your mommy.

  12. Teri says:

    Sounds like a big weekend! If Lupine’s interest in dance continues, I’ve been very impressed with the techniques pioneered by Anne Green Gilbert of the Creative Dance Center in Seattle. She teaches brain-compatible concept based creative dance that embraces all abilities and all body types. From a young age, dancers are encouraged to collaborate and cooperate in their movement together. I know she’s published books and videos that might be of use if you decide to go forward with your homeschooling dance group.

  13. Robyn says:

    I love this Rachel. Such a wonderful example of your amazing parenting. If we could all be so in tune with our kids, I wonder how different the world would be. And those pictures! You can see her sparkle right through them!

  14. Marlo says:

    May I just say ditto? My little 5 year old just went through the same thing. On the day of the receital, she said she didn’t want to perform. She ended up doing it, but when the teacher added in an additional performance the next weekend, we passed. For my daughter, and me truly, it is all the extra rehearsals that are the dealbreaker. Last year, my daughter performed in the Nutcracker and we were at rehearsals every day the week before, often until 8 pm at night. And I am not okay with that. Classes once a week is fun, but dedicated our entire family’s live to ballet at the ripe old age of 5 is just too much. By the end of the Nutcracker and this most recent receital, my daughter always asks for a break. We only go back if she is ready and wanting to return. It truly breaks my heart when I see all the little, little girls up there crying and being forced back into the classroom each week. I guess that just isn’t my cup of tea.

    I love how Lupine said she didn’t even get to play all day – exactly how my daughter feels. Good job mama, for taking cues from your little one. I wish we lived nearby so they could dance their hearts out together in the clover patch or ride horses all day at the nearby stables.

  15. Rachel Wolf says:

    I just had this conversation with a friend tonight who was asking herself when to push and when to allow them to lead. As an unschooler my world is built on the premise that my children know very well what is good for them. While encouraging a frustrated child to complete something they made a commitment to often makes sense, I feel that children indeed know what they need and I trust them to take the lead. Thanks Susanne.

  16. Down In Our Heart says:

    Ditto what Cassandra said. I am inspired too. I so wish I would have had this attitude when my oldest was this age! Personally I always struggled with feeling pressure for my children’s image maintenance for the adults around me, rather than learning to read my daughter’s (in my case) quirky actions as a form of communication (usually meaning she was simply overstimulated). Live and learn.

    On another note, I never was able to sign her up for ballet like she wanted partially for $$ reasons, but mostly due to a rule about parents not being allowed to watch the class (I guess they wanted the girls to be independent). I have no idea if that’s the norm, but at 3 my daughter would never have made it without me being near! Thankfully we found a clogging dance class when she was 6. It seems to strike the perfect balance between a low-key relaxed approach (some days she sort of does, well ummm, her *own* thing), and still getting to perform once in awhile (no extra practices!).

  17. Amanda @RusticRemnants says:

    My daughter is taking her first year in ballet this year, with recital in just 2 weeks. So far she loves it but there have been plenty of days that we’ve “skipped” dance class because of a desire to just stay at home. I said that when we started I wanted her to give it a fair chance but if she ever wanted to stop we’d let her. I think by taking occasional breaks we’ve helped it remain fun for her.

    My biggest problem is that my daughter is so very much like me and gets easily frustrated when she doesn’t get something right the first time. How do I find that balance between getting her to stick with something long enough to give it a chance and knowing when it’s time for her to walk away?

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