Tuesday, April 20, 2010
I was not prepared for the disappointment she did experience.
As I said E was ecstatic when we told her she was going to ballet. She almost couldn't believe it. Right away she whipped upstairs to get her dance leotard on and pink tights, thanking me profusely for buying her new ones. The she raced off to the bathroom so I could pull her thick hair back into a nice sleek ponytail. We debated on her footwear since we were advised to wait to buy ballet shoes until after the first class to see if she liked it first. We settled on a pair of black ballet style shoes that she had. She was adorable. She even had to wear just the right pink sweater with the whole ensemble before we could go out the door. Luckily I had spied a pink bag in her room that would be just perfect for carrying her stuff to and fro from ballet.
Little did I realize the expectations that were building up in my little girl's imagination.
Disappointment #1: The hall was small, old and ugly and WORST of all... it had NO STAGE.
Disappointment #2: She wasn't permitted to wear her shoes. The ones we specially picked out.
Disappointment #3: She had to remove her tights so she wouldn't slip on the floors since she didn't have proper ballet shoes
It was with a little dismay of my own as we huddled in the girl's washroom when I saw her sad face as I helped her take her tights off. When I asked her what was the matter I got "It's not how I imagined it. It's all wrong". My heart sank just a little. It didn't take me long to get a grasp on what she meant. You see my girl was all dressed for the role she was to play and now not only she wasn't able to wear her shoes but her tights too had to come off. That didn't fit the picture she had in her head of a ballet dancer. Add to that the disappointment of the dinky little hall with no stage and the rather short and plump almost grandmotherly type of teacher who did not fit the picture either of a ballet teacher.
Darn you, Angelina Ballerina!
I do not know what it is with my daughter and the stage but it seems to me her biggest dream is to get to go up on a "real" stage.
I quickly and quietly tried to reassure her and promised her that we would go straight to the dance supply store afterwards if she liked it and buy her new ballet slippers. We didn't have much time to talk so my gal had to just bravely go in and face her disappointment. I could tell by her somewhat shy and quiet demeanor (cause this girl is no shy chick) that she was struggling a little.
Fortunately, the ballet teacher is a lovely understanding woman and managed to put all the girls at ease almost at once. Before we knew it, the music was on and my little girl was learning how to skip and slide along.
Unfortunately, I missed the rest because I had J and O with me and they only managed to survive about 10 minutes of watching their sister dance before they began to complain loudly about wanting to go home. So I took them outside to play. But when I did get back in just at the end, they had scarves out and I got to see her pretending to be a floating butterfly and all of her shyness was gone. One other kind grandmother there told E that she did a lovely job of pretending to be a princess.
The first words out of E's mouth to me was "Mom, I liked it".
So off we went to the dance store where we made it in the nick of time before closing. Besides the ballet slippers I managed to buy her a pretty pink skirt and a twirly thing to help me put her hair in a bun. (Excellent sales lady by the way. She even had Car stickers. Smart woman). E is all excited at how prepared she will be for next class.
As I had waited outside the class with her siblings, I had contemplated on E's expectations and resulting disappointment. I felt bad for her. One thing I was able to share with her later was that I, too, started off in an old gym hall when I first took ballet lessons. That if she wanted to pursue dance then she'd go to a "real" dance studio etc.
It did make me realize that I need stop and think or even discuss with my kids what their expectations might be for things like this. I know you can't protect them from every hurt or disappointment but it would have made those first steps go just a little bit smoother for her if E had known what the deal was. It had never occurred to me that she would have been building the whole thing up in her mind like that and yet still I can see how she would have been expecting a pretty dance studio complete with mirrors and bar.
After all, isn't ballet supposed to be all pink and pretty?