Note: this is very raw form and I will most likely go over it and edit it out a bit: smooth it out and maybe add some commentary and transitions if I remember more. I just wanted to get it down for the moment.
Today was Lil Miss’ ballet recital. Her class has been practicing their dance (all two minutes of it) for the last four weeks at least. She got her outfit on Monday and I took pictures. All through this, I’ve been somewhat concerned because she doesn’t seem to register the idea of “recital” or “show” or “performance”. Like with a lot of things, she seemed to just be ignoring this whole concept and I was somewhat worried that she was just not going to get with the program. She certainly loved getting her outfit and posing for pictures but she couldn’t quite grasp what it was for.
So we got to the theater today for dress rehearsal. I had been prepping her for the last two days about this whole event. She was much more concerned about not being allowed to bring her cheetos in with her than anything else. I truly think she thought it was just another ballet class being held in a different place.
We got to the dressing room and she put on her outfit and I did her hair. Only then did she really take note of the seriousness of the occasion. All the girls were fussing over their hair, their makeup, their tights etc. She made mention of wearing lipstick and I said “Do you want some? I have some if you want it?” – not becuase I cared one way or the other about her wearing lipstick but because I could see that she was starting to get a little weirded out and if wearing lipstick like the other girls made her feel better, fine by me. “no,” she said “I told you before”
“yes, you did, and if you don’t want lipstick or any make up that is just great because you look fantastic!” I said. Two other mothers heartily agreed with me. She nodded vaguely while still looking at all the other girls fussing and got very very quiet. Then she put her hand on her stomach and said “Mom, my tummy hurts. I must be sick”
Now, I happen to know “my tummy hurts” is a favorite stall for her so I figured this was one of those times she decided she wanted some extra attention. “no baby,’ I said, “your tummy is fine but Do you want to hold my hand?”
She nodded. We sat for a while like that when the five minute notice came in. The other girls all got up from playing, fussing and whatever to start grouping at the door. I looked at Lil Miss and noticed that she had gone quite pale. Oh wow. I was a bit flummoxed because I couldn’t understand why she would suddenly be feeling bad. She was fine all morning, she was fine on the way over and
“oh honey,” said a mother, “are you nervous?”
Lil Miss looked at her puzzled.
“scared, honey, are you scared?”
Lil Miss nodded and swallowed while her eyes got bigger.
And didn’t I just feel simultaneously like the biggest fool and bad mom at that moment.
My little girl had stage fright.
Now, understand, I’ve been on the stage since I was eight years old. I’ve sung, danced, acted, voice-recorded and improvved all my life, it seems.
Not once in my life have I ever been nervous about performing. Not once. No stage-fright, no butterflies, nothing. Never. I’ve forgotten lines, lost my place, fallen on my face, flubbed cues and just about every mistake you can make in performing. Still never had anything worse than a minor passing “shy attack”.
I don’t even know what stage fright feels like.
So, here is my little girl, about to go on stage in front of strangers for the first time in her life and she’s naturally nervous as hell. And she’s so little and scared she doesn’t even know that what she’s feeling is called “nervous” – she thinks she’s sick.
I didn’t even know what to do.
So I went with her, held her hand and whispered in her ear the whole way up. I rubbed her shoulders when we got to the wings. I told her “Its okay, I know you’re scared but you know, its just a dance. You do this dance so well, I love watching you do it and all you have to do is go out there and do it again. Just like in class. Ms Whitney will be right here and I will be out there watching with Daddy”
So she waited until it was time and then she went out to rehearsal. I stood in the wings and waved at her smiling big. She looked so incredibly serious and she kept looking down to make sure she was on her mark. When Ms Whitney reminded them to smile she plastered a weird grimace on her face that nearly made me laugh.
But she did her dance. She did it very well, in fact.
Afterwards, she came back out and said “so now we go home?”
“no, baby, you just practiced this time. Now we wait for your turn to do it in front of the people”
She went pale again. Her face crumbled and I could see tears welling up.
“Mommy, I’m cold. I think I need to put my clothes on…” she began trembling, actually trembling! I had never seen her do that before.
“oh no, baby, its okay, it’ll be okay! you do the dance so well! everyone will love to see it just like I love seeing it”
I put my arm around her and hugged her, but I could see in her eyes she very much wanted to go home, tears were still there and she was so scared. I know my girl. At this point, it was all she could think about. She would have a hard time focusing on anything else. She would be on the verge of tears for a while, until there was some kind of release or distraction.
So I “ruined” the surprise. A little.
“you know, if you do this dance one more time, in front of the people, you know, you might win a medal”
Now *that* got her attention.
Ever since “wreck-it ralph” she’s wanted a medal. She found out all three of her brothers have medals for things they have done and she’s been bugging us ever since about how to get a medal. We’ve been pretty adamant that one does not just *get* a medal, it has to be earned. But we never once said what you have to do to earn a medal. We didn’t want to make it an “if-then” thing and we didn’t want to feel like we were pushing her either. So, of course, once we knew she was doing the recital, we ordered a medal for her.
To be honest, I wasn’t 100% sold on giving it to her. I mean, what if she flubbed it? what if she chickened out? I sure wasn’t going to force her to be in the recital if she changed her mind but then if she did I wasn’t going to reward her either. So when we ordered it, I felt a little wary of the fact that J had it engraved with her name and the date of the recital, but I do like to be optimistic…
So I told her about the medal. Sort of.
I mean, I didn’t want to push her by dangling this carrot in front of her, but I also wanted her to focus on something other than her fear. I needed her to know there was something worth reaching for beyond the immediate emotion she was flooded with. So I mentioned the medal.
“I get a medal?!” she exclaimed.
I hedged, “well, maaaaybe you *might* win a medal. I’m not sure…””If I do the dance then I get a medal?”
“MAYBE” I said as firmly as possible. I really was worried that she was going to think she only had to show up and that medal was hers. I wanted her to understand she had to really TRY.
So we went back to the dressing room. Suddenly, she was animated, and excited. But I noticed she was still clutching her stomach.
“mommy, my tummy still hurts and I want my cheetos”
“tell you what, how about we get a shake?” I said.
She nodded seriously.
So we met up with J and all went to get a milkshake. She was SO happy to see him, she hadn’t seen him for a few days (he went camping with his motorcycle group) So at one point, while she was getting into the car, I explained the situation to him. He nodded. He has social anxiety. Stage fright must be old hat for him. I explained how i wasn’t sure because, I’ve never had it. He nodded again. I told him “sorry, but I mentioned she MIGHT get a medal. I don’t want that to be her focus, but she’s just SO scared, I was worried she might just not do it.” he nodded again.
“I got this” he said.
So she had her milkshake and daddy talked. He talked about being scared in your tummy and how its okay because its just a little scared and you can still do what you need to do. He talked about how he gets scared sometimes and its hard to do things. Then I went to the bathroom. When I got back. They were snuggling and she seemed a lot happier. We went back to the theater.
Now *I* was nervous because we were cutting the time so close. Well, not nervous, really, just urgent. But Lil Miss walked at a leisurely pace, sipping her milkshake. She noticed all the flowers.
“mom, can I get flowers?”
“I dont’ know baby, we’ll see. We don’t have time right now to look at the flowers but maybe when you’re done we’ll see”
“cuz you don’t have any money?”
“No, baby, I just don’t know if I want to get flowers right now. I think I just want to see you dance”
She looked a bit blanched at those words but she kept walking towards the theater.
In the dressing room I got her hair done and her outfit on lickety-split. I had no idea when her class was going on but I did know they had said all moms except the volunteers were to leave. She still seemed nervous to me but once she finished her milkshake, she told her it was fine.
“look mom, my tummy is all better now!” she patted herself and I gave her a kiss
“baby, you are going to have such a good time. I am gonna love watching you!” I said.
Then when she was all ready, she ran to go color with all the other girls and I went to the door, “bye baby!” I said. She barely acknowledged me.
Oh the show was lovely. I do love watching kids learning things and demonstrating their joy. Such fun.
The class before hers was “the baby class” and they were, of course, outrageously adorable. Then her class came out. J nudged me with his palms up; he couldn’t tell which one was her. I laughed and pointed “Second from right, in the back” I whispered. They did all look astoundingly alike but i knew her right away.
She had a bearing that I recognized from a hundred yards away: she was serious and paying attention. I guess when its a rare celebratory thing that your child pays serious attention, you really notice when it happens. She was really “on it”. She got into position and put on that weird grimacing smile that I know means she’s really concentrating. She still looked so incredibly pale too and I don’t think it was just because she’s the only blonde in the group, I really think she was still so terribly scared.
But she held her head up, stayed in position and did the dance.
Even when two of the girls flubbed the movement and wen the wrong way, she did not fluster, only looked at them puzzled and kept doing the correct movement. Just like Ms Whitney had told them.
It was only at the end, doing the curtsey that she got distracted – just for a second – because she was so intent upon maintaining the last movement of the dance she forgot that the curtsey was part of the dance too. Only for a second and then she did a quick version and got into place to walk off.
I can’t tell you how proud i was of her.
Not because of the dance. Because I know, I KNOW how scared she was. I may not have ever had that same fear, but I know she was on the verge of just giving up and walking away. But she didn’t. Not only that but she focused and she did a great job.
Then when we were parting ways, J was putting on his cycle gear and Lil Miss was sitting in the car – still in her outfit! – admiring her TWO bunches of flowers (from daddy and Godmother)
“what did you say to her while I was in the bathroom?” I asked him.
He grinned and told me, “I told her I knew she was scared and that was okay. I told her if she started to dance and she got too scared to just think about hugs. I said ‘I’ll be with all the people watching you and I’ll be thinking about hugs too'”