When I was in school I was a good student. Getting into trouble was never my thing. I always made good grades, without being prompted. I was even a member of a few clubs here an there.
Where I did fall short though was in extracurricular activities. It never occurred to me to do anything outside of school. I never played a sport. Or learned to play an instrument. I never took a lesson in anything. I regret that fact, even all these years later.
So when I had my first child and she just so happened to be a girl, I wanted things to be different for her. I wanted her to try ALL the things.
At age three, I signed her up for ballet class. Mainly because there is absolutely nothing cuter than a tiny tush in a pink tutu. And she loved it from the very start. Just look at her first recital picture.
As she got older, she continued to dabble in different activities. My oldest child always needed to be nudged into trying something new. I didn’t care what she did. I just wanted her to find her passion. How could we possibly know what her passion was if she didn’t try anything?
So I gently nudged her into a few things. Next came gymnastics. She tried that for a couple of years. Then she decided that it wasn’t for her. After that she tried cheer. Again not for her. Two seasons of soccer. Sweat. Ew. No. Piano lessons for a few months. Hated that more than everything she’d tried before.
By now my daughter was 11 and I was ready to wash my hands of her. Maybe she was destined to repeat my past. I couldn’t force her into loving things. It was her life after all.
She had managed to stay in some form of dance class for 9 years. She had taken ballet, jazz dance tap and lyrical. She liked it well enough to continue year after year, but I just didn’t see any fire. No drive. Very flippant about the whole darn thing.
Then one day out of the blue she mentioned that her teacher had encouraged her to try out for the middle school dance team. I was careful not to act too excited. Too much exuberance from me could make her backpeddle. The middle school girl is a curious creature, you see. So I was calm and cool about the possibility. I told her that after paying tuition for her to take dance lessons for many years, it would be great if she could actually do something with it. I mean, dance team. Sure. Okay. Whatever. *dying of excitement inside*
She was nervous naturally. Middle school is a difficult and awkward time for young girls and boys, as you probably remember. And the thought of having to audition made her want to throw up a little. She had never auditioned for anything in her life. Could she handle rejection?
I told her life is full of uncertainty. Life is one long, painful audition. Sometimes we make the team and sometimes we don’t. Sometimes we get the job, sometimes we don’t. Sometimes the accolade has your name on it. And sometimes it just doesn’t.
Being alive means living, though. Fear and pain are real emotions. And they remind you that you are alive. Sometimes in life you are going to hear no. But worse than hearing no, is the regret of never trying. Those are the things you regret on your death-bed. The things you never attempted.
She agreed with my reasoning. She was going for it. I had never been more proud of her in my life. The only thing worse than disappointments in our own life as a parent, are the disappointments of our children. And on the flip side, the only thing better than our achievements are those of our kids.
Once you are a parent, the game changes.
Try out day took forever to arrive. But it finally came. She was anxious and nervous, but also excited. As a parent I wasn’t allowed to watch. Which is probably for the best. I would have been a wreck. Middle school dance team may not seem like a big deal to you. But when there is something that your child wants badly, then you want it 100 times worse. You would do anything in your power to give it to her. Except there is nothing YOU can actually do.
It is completely up to her now. All you can do is hold your breath.
I picked her up when the tryouts where over. We had an hour wait before the new team list would be posted. So naturally I took her for ice cream. Because what is more soothing than ice cream? The minutes seemed excruciatingly long. But the time finally arrived.
As I turned onto the school road, my daughter let out a nervous squeal. This was the moment she had waited on for two weeks. I put the vehicle in park and we dove out together. We raced to the glass door where the list was displayed.
My daughter scanned the list. I couldn’t look. I only watched her. And then I saw it. I saw the smile spread from her eyes to her mouth. She began to jump up and down. Only then could I look for myself. I saw her name. To say we did a happy dance/hugging type thing would be an understatement.
I had never been so proud of her. For the first time in her young life, she wanted something, and she went after it. Fear didn’t hold her back. If only I had been so brave, all those years ago.
There is really no way for me to describe the feeling. To want something so badly for someone else. More than you want anything for yourself. To see your child fight for something and risk the possibility of being hurt. It is the highest of highs. I love my daughter. I will always support her, no matter what road she chooses in life. That has never been a question.
What I didn’t know before having kids was that their successes would be the absolute pinnacles of my life. There is nothing like watching your children soar.