For a few minutes I had butterflies in my stomach. I left my daughter back stage in a pink sparkly tutu with silver and feather tiara on her head. I left her, along with eight other budding ballerinas, in the capable hands of her teacher to wait their turn to perform.
Becoming a parent has given me new respect for my own parents. I had butterflies about how my little toddler would fare at her first dance recital, something that involved about a minute in the spotlight. I wanted her to have the best experience possible. I can’t imagine how my own parents must have felt at band concerts. Or at high-pressure quiz, speech or one-act competitions. Or when I made my first solo flight in an airplane.
I remember one band concert when I had a trumpet solo, Silver Bells, I blew it. Started on the wrong note, never found a right note through the whole thing. Now, I know my mom was going through that painful experience right along with me, even though she was in the audience.
We parents want success for our children. We want them to have good experiences. So we prepare them. We get them to school and lessons. We read to them. We sing the A-B-C song. We sit down and help them with homework. We encourage them to stretch themselves and go have new experiences.
But a parent cannot have the new experience for the child or even with the child. Our children, ultimately, must experience life on their own. These solo experiences start out simple, one-minute ballet routines on a stage. But they lead to other things, quiz contests, essay contests, scholarship competitions, the last play of the big game, bridge building, book publication, marriage, childbirth, and so on.
The important thing is that as parents we teach our children how to prepare for these experiences. We need to instill in them the importance of showing up on time for every practice or meeting. We need to teach them that anything worth doing is worth doing right and probably won’t be easy, and when in spite of the best preparation possible, they fall, we need to be there encouraging them as they pick themselves up and start over again.
It’s not easy, this parenting thing. It’s one of the hardest jobs I’ve ever had. I never know what I’m going to be asked to do next. I never really know if I’m doing the right thing. But I do know this, I’ve got a little girl counting on me to be waiting in the wings, ready with a big, toothy grin, a hug, a pat on the back, or a kick in the, well, —whatever is needed.
When the curtain lifted it revealed nine little “Cinderella angels” all in a row. There was a collective “aww” from the audience, and then Perry Como started crooning Thank Heavens for Little Girls over the sound system. My butterflies settled, and I started howling as my little girl did just about everything except her dance routine. She wasn’t the least bit uncomfortable on stage. She was curious, looking at lights and curtains and all of the neat new stuff she was seeing for the first time. Every so often the music would catch her attention and her hips would sway in rhythm. Every so often her teacher would catch her attention and she would jump or point a toe at the right time. But mostly she did her own thing, comfortable and swaying to the music, oblivious to my mom-ly worries that she would be overwhelmed, or scared or nervous. Nope. She just had a good time.
And that’s okay with me.
© 2010 Michele Arduengo. All rights reserved.