Friday, March 1st, 2013
Fia’s obsessed with Olivia–the quirky bossy red pig who refers to her little brother as her “little bother.” It’s a great show, with great books. Olivia is adventurous. She wants to be a great artist. She loves her artist’s easel. Naturally, Fia loves hers too. Ever since Olivia came into our lives, Fia has been a painting machine. I love to watch her splatter it about with such concentration you’d think she was Degas, but with the outcome more like Pollock.
Olivia also loves to do ballet. You know where this is going. Fia, of course, also wants to take ballet. She’s been twirling around the house. We have loads of unique tutus in her closet too, collecting dust (one has a funny story behind it if you care to read). I found a place that has the “Angelina Ballerina” classes. They seemed to really know their stuff. Since it’s based on the character from the PBS show–a mouse–it’s supposed to incorporate a lot of “fun” into the class. The age is 3-4.5. Perfect. We signed up for a trial class. The days leading up to it, Fia twirled even more aggressively around the house (taking a few brutal falls along the way). We talked about which tutu she would wear. She kept saying, “Mom, I’m so excited!” I had high hopes that she wouldn’t get shy and clam up at the class, like she does from time to time with new things.
We dressed her in the outfit.
We did her hair.
It was awful.
First of all, every other girl was dressed in pale pink. Second, the teacher sucked. I guess the regular teacher got stuck in traffic so two classes were combined. This woman made them sit on the floor for the first 10 minutes for “role call.” Then she still couldn’t remember their 8 names. Except Fia. She remembered hers because Fia didn’t want to participate and was ultimately put in the corner. This woman lacked any sort of warmth. It was like she was training them for the Russian ballet.
One little girl halfway through shook her head “no” as she ran across the room to her mom, tears streaming down her face. At least she has on pale pink, I thought, cursing myself for not having a “normal” outfit for my girl. I looked over at Fia, her colorful tutu surrounding her as she sat quietly in the corner, totally out of place (this is probably me projecting her emotion on her outfit more than anything). She had this sad look as she watched all the other girls who seemed far more confident, dance around and even plie (plea-aye). It was heart wrenching.
Finally, after I realized she wasn’t going to come out of the corner (the teacher did give the option in a very stern way, but Fia didn’t react. Just looked right through her in that ethereal way of hers), I said forget it. I motioned for her. I picked her up. She looked like she was holding back tears. I know how excited she was about the class, and how disappointed she was– mostly in herself.
“Mama, I didn’t like that class,” she said, her lip trembling.
“I know honey. I didn’t either.”
I didn’t want her to get in her mind that all ballet is bad though. She is a girl who has definite hang ups. Suddenly at gymnastics, she refuses to do the hoola hoops. This, after almost 2 years of enjoying them. Now she sits and refuses. The swimming thing has been an equal challenge, though just last week she started to “get it” so I’m glad I held out. Phil is worried that she will be a quitter. He says his mom always let him quit at things he wasn’t good at or didn’t like. He wished she would have pushed him more. My friend C, on the other hand, has a dad who made her do sports she hated, like soccer. He pushed her too far and she resented it greatly.
So where do you find the balance as a parent? Any insight here? Of course I want to protect her from having a bad experience, but then I also know that’s life and she needs to adapt. And participate.
I told her we were going to find a different ballet class.
“One that Olivia goes to?”
“Yes,” I said. “In fact, maybe we can even take your Olivia doll with us and show her how great it is.”
I went online and ordered pink ballet shoes, pale pink tights and a lavender leotard. I don’t want her to be a total conformist (thus the lavender) but maybe fitting in look-wise will help give her a confidence boost. We can always use our funky tutus down the road.
This Wednesday afternoon we’re going. A friend of ours takes her daughter and described the class as somewhat chaotic and totally disorganized. It sounds absolutely perfect and right up our alley. Olivia’s too.