Friday, December 3, 2010

Life Hands Me a Lesson in Parenting - The Ballet Class

Everytime I think I'm "getting it" PARENTING looks me in the eye and says, "Try again, sister, you still have no clue what you are doing."

Camdyn wanted to try ballet badly.  A few of her friends take ballet class and she was aching to try it.  I decided I would enroll her at the Y.  The cost is low, there isn't a big committment if it wasn't a fit for her, and I thought that would be a good starting point.  She took 2 classes with the 3 and 4 year olds.  She was the tallest and probably oldest child in the class.   She did exactly what she was supposed to do, and even surprised me with how quickly she caught on.  She moved through the ballet section of the class with ease and then tied on her tap shoes and learned how to shuffle step.  She liked the class, but she kept telling she wanted to be in her friend's ballet class. 

Last night, she participated in the friend's ballet class.  It was a class of 5 and 6 year olds, and Cam was now the youngest and greenest dancer on the floor.  She struggled through the barre exercises.  She didn't know the terminology and much to my surprise the teacher wasn't really helping her.  The teacher was calling out steps, but not really helping Cam, who doesn't even know what a tondue or a rond de jambe is.  Cam did fairly well at the barre and through the floor exercises, but when it came time to do their dance she began to goof off.  She's rolling on the floor, she keeps running over for a drink of water, she sits on the floor when everyone else is standing, she tries not to participate and then the teacher says, "Camdyn.  If you are not going to dance with us then you need to go sit with your mother."  So, she does.  Then, it's time for tap and things quickly get worse.  She is sliding around the floor in her tap shoes, spinning in circles, she's not following directions and the whole time, I'm sitting there STEAMING.  Why can't she just do what she is supposed to do?  Why can't she just pay attention?  My level of frustration is quickly rising. 

Then, Cam decides she doesn't want to dance anymore, so with 10 minutes left in the class she is sitting by my side watching.  I'm irritated.  I tell myself, I knew this would happen.  I knew she couldn't handle being in the class with her friend.  I tell her that we are never coming back to Ballet Class.  I'm embarrassed. 

We get in the car and I decide that I can not speak to her.  I don't want to say something I'll regret, and I'm so irritated and angry at her behavior that staying silent is the only thing I can do.  She starts to cry.  And, then I open my mouth.  "Why Camdyn?  Why can't you just do what you are asked to do?  Why don't you listen?"  She cries harder.  I cry. 

And then she says....

"I couldn't do it Mommy.  I don't know those dances.  You need to teach me.  I want to go back to that ballet class but I need to practice.  Can we practice in the garage.  NOW."

In that moment, everything that I thought I knew about my child and her behavior (good or not so good) that day, flew out the window.  The reality of what she was saying to me stuck me right in the heart. 

She was frustrated.  She was not misbehaving on purpose or just because....she was on overload.  She couldn't do the steps and she knew it.  She tried faking it by twirling in circles, or coming over for water, or just sitting on the floor because she couldn't do it.  If you've ever watched a 4 year old do ballet, it's awkward.  They don't know how to move their little bodies in specific ways.  She had no idea how to tell her little feet to do what the teacher was doing. 

Then I got angry, why wasn't the teacher taking 15 seconds out to help her?  Instead she was just giving commands and plugging along.  Granted, I understand that they can't stop the class for one child, but this is not an advanced class.  It's a class for all experience levels, so why couldn't she take a minute to help her, to praise her efforts, and to make it enjoyable for her?  The teacher certainly did that in the 3-4 year old class.

So, while I was sitting there fuming, watching Camdyn misbehaving, I should have been standing alongside her, helping her.

When I tucked her in bed last night I asked her, as I always do, "What was your favorite part of the day."  Her response, "Going to ballet, mommy."

We'll be working this weekend on our arabesque, and shuffle hop steps, and next week, I'm bringing my tap shoes, and if the teacher won't slow down to help her, then I will.


Rochelle@AFamilyofLooneys said...

I can't believe that the teacher did not help her.
I know I have had moments when Samantha did something that I thought was acting out. I look back and she was probably going through the same thing as your daughter. Sometimes it is so hard being a parent. One day it is like you get it right and the next you fall on your face.

cooperl788 said...

This post breaks my heart - why didn't the teacher help her? You've done such a good job with Camdyn to have her be able to articulate why she couldn't do what the teacher asked, and for her to feel comfortable asking you for help. The job of Mom is really tough sometimes, but you're doing great (even when it feels like you're falling on your face)!

Anonymous said...

This made me think about when you and I joined that tap class for a day when they had all been meeting for months. We were awkward, we stood there at times completely lost and that teacher NEVER helped US!!! If things don't work out at the Y, don't give up- there are so many great dance studios. And if all else fails, WE can teach her! LOL

Amanda said...

This post made me teary. I really love your relationship and that she talks to you like that. In a (big) way it makes life easier when children can express emotion like that. Instead of staying frustrated with her, you came back on to her side to help and protect her!

Jennifer said...

Oh, Carol. I swear, when we think we are doing pretty good, something always all of us :) I am sure I would have been feeling the same way sitting there in the class, watching my child misbehave. I don't think we realize sometimes what they are feeling and they may not either. They are still little babies, not always knowing how to express themselves. We are all guilty of getting angry and frustrated. Believe me, this week I felt that way alot. But what is important is that you now know what you need to do. Good for you and shame on that teacher :0

Melissa said...

Oh wow. I hate it when motherhood kicks me in the pants like that. It's impressive the way you were able to move from frustration to understanding in a heartbeat - that's motherhood for you :) PS - if you're needing ballet help youtube has lots of great instructional videos.

TV's Take said...

Oh that is actually a very sweet story. So glad you two connected in such a special way. I'm definitely thinking of enrolling KLV in ballet when she turn 3 b/c she talks about ballet now and she's not even 2?! Have fun tapping your way back to center.

Ashley said...

Great post Carol, sometimes I'm able to see thru my son's behavior and see the emotions behind it. Parenting is hard!

Colleen (Shibley Smiles) said...

You do this to me all the time, make me start to tear up at your post. Sometimes we forget that kids can have the same feelings we do, of being overwhelmed or frustrated. The difference is how they show it vs how we show it but in the end the result is the same. What a beautiful thing that she didn't just want to quit. She wants to learn so she can participate that is such a wonderful attitude for her to have.

I'm so sorry the teacher was not able to help her and I hope she realizes to what Camdyn was doing and doesn't hold it against her in future classes.

Have fun and good luck to Camdyn in her next class.

Eastlyn and co. said...

Parenting can be so frustrating and guilt-provoking at times. I understand your frustration and how sorry you must've felt after Cam explained her side of the story. I sometimes (okay, if I knew how to do the "strike-though" in comments I would here and type "often" instead) snap at my kids only to realize I've hurt their feelings because I misunderstood their actions or comments in the first place. What a lousy feeling. I'm so glad kids are so forgiving and that Cam enjoyed her dance lesson despite how it ended.

LeeAnn said...

Awwww. You know that I can totally relate to this post and I'm sorry about the experience you had, for you and Cam. I'm so glad she told you what was really bothering her and you were able to help. Don't beat yourself up over it. I don't think you suck at parenting AT ALL. It was the teacher's fault for not helping her, and if I were you, I would definitely point that out to the teacher when you go back next time.

We do the best we can do, right? But I know that sometimes we feel like we fail our children. I think these girls will end up being just fine, though. :-)

And sorry I'm so late getting over was one of those weekends. Have a great week!