A couple of months ago, we decided to enroll my 3-year-old daughter into a “princess ballet” class. She had been spending all of her hours dressing up in princess costumes, dancing with dainty princess arms, asking for me to put on princess music… so, it was a natural next step.
We had just finished up 6 months of a “mom-and-me” gymnastics class that we really loved. For her, it was a play land of new fun things to try… all with the comfort of Mom being there while she did it. It was something special “we” did together in a year where we were both adjusting to her little brother being in our lives.
Like her, I loved that it was something set aside for “just us.” And with gymnastics being her first real “organized” activity – I was kind of excited about seeing how she would follow instructions and interact with her classmates. And let’s be honest, I also liked that if she didn’t follow instructions or went rogue from an activity that I could “parent” right away.
But ballet? It was a 45-minute class once a week, but it felt like a whole new world for me. I would be sitting in the watching area. Watching (hoping, praying) that she was going to “behave” without me being out there. As a work-at-home Mom, I am with my kids ALL of the time and have been able to be there for all of the milestones and experiences to praise them for doing something great, and teach them when a lesson presented itself. And I never realized how uncomfortable it would feel for me to “lose” that control … for her to be out there to learn from someone else … to make mistakes … to take instructions from someone else.
And if that wasn’t enough… all of that was happening with a room full of other princess ballet parents seeing how she was doing that. It felt like my parenting skills were put on a stage for everyone to see and judge.
And isn’t. that. so. SAD.
Isn’t that sad … that I made princess ballet about ME.
It was “my” test to see how well “I” had parented her. Every time she listened or didn’t listen, every time she talked kindly or didn’t talk kindly (like the time she told the teacher to “not touch her” when she went to reach for her hand), every time she went off on her own or played with other kids… I made that about me. I was not only relentlessly judging myself… I was constantly doing the old “glance around the room” to see what the other Moms were thinking when my daughter didn’t follow directions. It was about me and my fear of what she was going to do “wrong” and how that was going to be a reflection of me and what other people were going to think about that.
And while I stressed out about all of that stuff … I had forgotten about what this experience was for HER.
It was HER first time to go out there without me. HER chance to try something new and make mistakes and have successes. HER experience of meeting new friends. HER processing and learning how to follow along with a group. HER chance to express her creativity and her personality. HER chance to do something that she really enjoyed. HER chance to be independent.
All of those amazing things…. while I sat there and worried about “me.”
And while that’s really hard for me to think about and even admit … I also am grateful for the experience. Because in a few short months we’ll be sending this princess ballerina off to preschool. Dropping her off. No watching area. Just the hoping and praying that you’ve done enough in these first almost-four years to have her be ready for it. And while that will inevitably be a part of the experience for me – I want it to be more about the experience for her. And I vow so HARD to make sure I don’t miss that.
Because while I don’t completely forget the fact that I have an influence on her – and a responsibility as a parent to help prepare her to navigate this world with character, love and a sense of right and wrong… I have a bigger responsibility to know when to step back and allow the focus to be more about what the experience is for HER. To put aside all of the social parenting pressures, to nix the pity parties for myself when she isn’t perfect all of the time … And worry more about what these new stages in life are about for HER, and how I can help her learn, grow, enjoy, express, fall down, get up and EXPERIENCE.
Because while I always think that our kids are a reflection of us and the example we set for them – it’s ultimately THEIR reflection they see in the mirror at the end of the day. And isn’t it more of our responsibility to help foster whoever that reflection authentically is … than it is to make sure that reflection positively reflects us?