My girls dance. I don't just mean in the living room. They have been studying ballet, tap, jazz, and lyrical for six years. The little one was two when she donned her first pair of ballet slippers. As she is petite, we had to go to a specialty shop to find real ballet tights in her size. I thoroughly expected them to attend class for a few months and lose interest. At their first recital, I held my breath and told myself it would be just fine if the little one wandered all over the stage and her older sister stood stiff as a board while the other ballerinas twirled around them. This was not the case. They danced, they really danced! And they smiled! And they came running off the stage shouting, "That was fun! Can we do it again?" We knew at that moment that we were in this for the long haul.
The not-so-little one served her first "sentence" in the performing company this year. Extra rehearsals, performances nearly every weekend, competition, convention... wore us all out and nearly broke the bank. At times it appeared she was in over her head - several of the girls have been competing for years. But she never lost heart, and she never stopped smiling. No one smiles like she does. A million watts that girl emits from the stage. You can barely see her dimples through the glow.
Maybe she never lost heart, but her mother did. You remember those girls I mentioned earlier, the ones that have been competing together for a while? Well, who knew they were members of an exclusive club, impervious to newcomers? No matter how hard my daughter tried to befriend these girls, there was no breaking through. During rehearsals the "core" would gather in a little circle, point at the other girls, and snicker. Prior to contest they would ridicule the girls who were "holding them back." At performances they would stand apart from their teammates. Even in the dressing room at the recital this weekend they marked their territory. And yesterday at the celebratory swim party, to which all the company girls were invited, the snubbing continued. There is nothing more heartbreaking than watching your daughter repeatedly swim up to a group of girls, hang out in the periphery, try fruitlessly to join in the conversation, and quietly swim away again. She had to tell them "goodbye" twice to get a response. And yet she insists that she had a good time.
Let me tell you, the apple doesn't fall far from the tree. There was one mother who tried to join the other moms, couldn't get a word in edgewise, and stood quietly watching from the periphery. Whether we were inside or out, we always seemed to be one chair shy of what we needed, so that one mom was left standing. I'm sure you can guess which mom was the "outsider." Thankfully this mom is mature enough and experienced enough to walk away relatively unscathed. It is easy for this mom to write these women off. She only has to see them occasionally. But this mother also knows that so much more can be accomplished when a team works together - whether we are talking about the players (the dancers) or the support staff (moms).
Don't worry - I didn't rescue. I stood by all year, watching in silence as my child was ridiculed and ignored by the "core." It's her lesson to learn, after all. But I sometimes wonder why we take this attitude about emotional injury when we wouldn't dream of just standing by and watching our children get burned by a fire or chop their little fingers off with a knife. Do we really believe that psyches heal that much more quickly than body parts?