Prior to giving birth to Babyface, ballet was never at the forefront of my mind. It wasn’t even settled into the white matter somewhere. I would pick a great rock concert, the opera or a musical over tutus and leotards any day. In fact, the word “ballet” was synonymous with “snoozefest” for me.
The music was great, but the movement simply bored me. That was until Babyface took a princess ballet class and instantly fell in love with it. At first, I thought it was the gaudy tutu and end-of-class sticker that captured her heart. Then, I signed her up for a real ballet class and realized, for her, it was so much more than that. Our living room soon became a dance floor for her to show off her new moves. We would watch them over and over again, offering the same praise and excitement each time, to the point where our eyelids grew heavy from the repetition.
I recently looked at the class schedule for her ballet school. If she continues, by the age of nine, she’ll be required to attend ballet class three times a week. From there, as her age rises, the number of days required increases. Her life will be consumed by the sport.
I often receive emails about tryouts for various shows at her ballet school. They’re for the older kids, but my stomach still gets queasy every time I see them. Her love for ballet worries me. Although she may get a good part, the word “tryout” has been known to offer up disappointment. No matter how hard I may try to make her understand that no part is too small, she may feel her hard work just isn’t good enough, if she doesn’t end up in the right tutu.
Flipping through Amazon Prime stream, I noticed the documentary First Positionand decided to catch a glimpse of what my world could someday be, if she decides it is her dream to be a ballerina. Although the documentary was well done, it was like watching a horror movie. The lives of six, ballet hopefuls vying for a spot in a few well-renowned schools was chronicled. If they did well in the Youth America Grand Prix, then they had a shot at a scholarship.
As a type A adult, I am well versed in the toxicity of stress. I know how to make Everest out of a molehill. The tension often explodes like a fury of hungry, fire ants. An avalanche of emotion often pounds to the ground.
I watched these six kids and their parents put their hearts and all waking hours into the outcome of one competition. For me, it was like watching my daughter put a heap of 100, raw eggs into a small, Easter basket and carry them around with her. Would she be able to balance them long enough to reach them to safety? An impossible venture with an impossible outcome.
In First Position,the kids were on a strict diet, going far beyond just organic. Forget high fructose corn syrup, these kids probably can’t even remember the taste of a blueberry muffin or anything sweet for that matter. The kids practiced through pain, the possible residue in the form of a lifelong ailment, just to get one shot at a scholarship. All the while, Lose Yourself by Eminem was on repeat in my mind.
The interesting part is that the kids all wanted to win, just as much as their parents. They were putting in the time and effort for themselves. The thought frightened me even more. Would Babyface love something like ballet so much that it would consume her? And, if she loved it that much, would her ability match her passion?
Ballet is such a precise sport. You need the body type (there are exceptions, but they are very few). You need the right ankles and feet. You need the thick skin, which would not be genetic for her (at least from my side of the gene pool). Passion will only get you so far. If you’re lucky, it will somehow prevail, but, however negative, there is the downside.
It’s always wonderful to watch documentaries where the subjects succeed and triumph via hard work and diligence. But having a small child increases my worry that she may lose her innocence over an activity where all of the cards just don’t line up for her.
When she is twenty and needs to switch gears, gather her losses and learn from her experiences, then I’m all for it. It will be a life lesson that she has the mental maturity to deal with. But at nine or ten, I do not want her heart and dreams to be shattered. I want her to have time to contemplate the standard tween things, like music, clothes and sleepovers. I want her to stay innocent for as long as she can. I won’t even mention boys because she won’t like them until she’s 25, right?
If she decides to venture down the path of the six subjects of First Positionin any sport or interest, by her own doing, I will support her. The F-word of sport, Failure, will never exit my mouth. But I will never push her to do something extracurricular, after she says, “I’m not happy anymore.” Her life isn’t about what I will ever want for her, it’s about her.
Now, if she decides not to study due to unnecessary distractions, then I have another beast to conquer on my hands. I will say, “Get an education and the rest of your life is your choice.”