We have arrived at the “two times a week” commitment with ballet. Gulp. That moment when the inner me nervously begins to chant, “This is too much. This is too much. This is too much.”
My 9 year old loves ballet on most days, except for those days when she doesn’t.
Maybe I’m alone in this camp, but I remember times before I had children, or when my oldest was very small and watching parents maneuver the teeter-totter of their children’s activities and involvement levels. In my mind there were two clear camps of parents:
- Those who overscheduled their children. These were the ones I often instantly judged [Aargh. Embarrassing, but true] for, in my own mind, replacing activity with true connection. And…
- Those more enlightened ones who often completely threw in the “activity towel” and said no to all forms of organized activity (or at least very strictly limited their children’s activities to one per kid). Achieving a martyr-like disposition (one of which I loved, gulp) for the sake of “taking the road less traveled” and pushing back against our “going to hell in a hand basket, overscheduled society.”
And then my kids grew up a bit.
And they started to morph into little humans whose likes and dislikes grew beyond which flavor of popsicles they would like to enjoy after their naps.
And because I want to be a mom who truly sees and hears her kids and provides a support for them to grow into the people THEY are created to be (not the ones I envision them becoming), I had to revisit my “already determined and filed away” (been there, done that) view of activities and schedules.
And with that little loop around/re-visitation of a lesson I thought I’d already learned, this is what I’m discovering…
CHOOSING TO TRULY SEE AND HEAR YOUR KIDDOS IS HARD WORK
It requires a fair amount of intentional thought, time and work. It means being open to having your mind changed. It means admitting you don’t have an answer sometimes, taking time to think about it and come to a conclusion later.
Having hard and fast rules is easier on so many levels because it doesn’t require
living in the tension of
not already having a pre-determined
answer before a question is even asked.
Do you know what I mean?
If I already know (for example), we will only allow one recurring activity at a time per kid, then when something new peaks her interest, I can say “No” before she’s even finished asking. Done. Finished. Good job sticking to your guns! Pat yourself on the back. You. Are. Awesome. You have this parenting gig down to a science.
Meanwhile, my daughter quietly crumples a little
and a bit of her spirit is squashed because a dream
that was blooming in her heart was extinguished
before even allowed a moment to grow.
I am finding that for me to truly see and hear my daughters, I have to take regular moments each day to stop and just watch them. Just see them. With no agenda. As I do that, I find that I am blessed by what I see. They are such sweet, sweet gifts.
And they are people—people whom I don’t have to manage or control or convince. They are ones I get to watch grow and carriers of dreams that I get the privilege of experiencing and watching unfold.
And this is hard work because it requires more than that—more than just sitting back and watching. I hear them. I see them. I watch and listen as they teach me about their dreams, likes, dislikes and desires. Then, I have to tap into God’s wisdom that is readily available for me as a parent, and make choices that will guide them well into these dreams, likes, dislikes and desires.
IT’S OUR JOB, AS PARENTS, TO HELP OUR KIDS CARRY THEIR BIG DREAMS
Our 9 year old had been saying for almost a year that she wanted to pursue ballet.
Our 4 year old had been dreaming of riding a horse for well over a year.
So, we signed up for a ballet class.
And we promised to research horseback riding possibilities.
But, not just any ballet class… She would only consider locations that yearly performed The Nutcracker. She has dreams. And she’s committed. I may have even tried (to no avail) to persuade her to consider another studio because a neighbor friend was in classes there. But, she said no.
So, we found a studio, close to home and signed up. She loved it. But, after a few months, her class was canceled due to the number of girls signed up. They needed more than 5 to keep the class going and only 4 were attending. She was crushed.
So we found a new studio. That performs The Nutcracker. Check.
As for horseback riding—no need to worry! Her dreams were not easily forgotten. Our 4 year old definitely kept us accountable to finding a place! With a fully-operational and public horse farm less than 10 minutes from our house and an entrance sign in plain view on our way to ANYWHERE, we would not be let off the hook. J So, we signed up for summer lessons. And she is IN HEAVEN.
But, this is the truth about their dreams.
IT IS NOT ALWAYS GLAMOROUS.
Just because a child has a big dream, does not mean she
has the capacity to carry it easily.
Our 9 year old just finished a week of ballet summer intensive. Ballet, character, tap, jazz, and modern—sprinkled with an intro to pointe and a little history of music and dance—from 9 am-4 pm, everyday for a week. She woke up the first day excited and dressed before breakfast. Fantastic!
Aaand… the other 4 days she complained and told me she didn’t want to get out of bed.
Similarly, our 4 year old came home from her 2nd horseback riding lesson so giddy and excited. Then her sister talked about how she got to help feed the horses in their stalls during the lesson. “It was so fun!” she said. To which our 4 year old responded angrily, “But not fun for me.” And stormed out of the room. News flash: While your sister was feeding the horses carrots, you were RIDING the horse in the barn. Dreams coming true? Remember? What the?!?!?!
In days past, I may have given up. I may have said, “You will finish this week of camp and then no more. We will take a break from ballet and try again next year.” Or, “If you don’t appreciate your horseback riding lessons, then we will stop.”
But, in my spirit, I knew there was a better way. She is 9 after all. Aaannd 4. Four.
As a parent, giving up because I don’t want to hear the complaining, or even giving up for nobler reasons of not wanting to overextend her (and that IS a real thing that needs to be considered in light of each individual kid) doesn’t really teach much, does it?
It often does nothing more than give her instant gratification (sleeping in her bed) and leaves her with a greater sense of not being able to do hard things later on in life.
And it leaves me with a bitter taste in my mouth and a shame-based cycle of thoughts wondering how other parents do it, what’s wrong with me and my parenting, and did I just take the easy way out and squash her dream a little?
More times than not, our dreams are
bigger than ourselves
and we need a team to encourage us in our pursuit
and help us carry the dreams to the finish line.
So, the question remains… if our kiddos carry big dreams and we are trying our best to see and hear them well, how do we know when to encourage and push them to stay committed and when to let go and watch them choose to move on from the dream?
I don’t really know.
But, I think you will. You are her parent. You are her mom, her dad. And I believe with all of my heart that you were chosen specifically for this role and no one can do it better than you.
(Two year old dreams of rollerblading)
And I believe living in the tension of not having a hard and fast answer for everything is actually a great place to be. Not knowing in this moment, exactly what you’ll do when you cross a decision/turning point bridge with your kiddos days, weeks, months or years down the road is not a sign of a lazy parent. It’s actually a sign of an open parent. One who will see, hear, assess and decide according to all the factors given in the moment. When it happens.
So take heart! Be confident. And don’t be afraid to watch your kids pursue something really big and great.