Tap Shoes, Dance Competition, and Active Parenting

958253_10151642609894866_104325619_o“I can’t find my black tap shoes!  I called daddy at home, and he can’t find them either!” panicked Meg in the dressing room at her weekend dance competition.  We arrived about 90 minutes early so she could calm herself and warm up with her dance team.

I had helped pack her stuff for the two numbers she was dancing today.  I could have sworn I checked for every item. I had also asked Meg to double check.  She did have her tan tap shoes for the second routine but needed the black ones for the first.  Seeing that they were neither in the suitcase nor at home, they could only be at the dance studio where she had last worn them during rehearsal last week.  The studio, unfortunately, was closed for the weekend due to this competition.

At this point, I had a choice to make:

A.  Let Meg suffer the consequences for forgetting her tap shoes.

B.  Rescue her by going to the local dance store and buying a new pair.

I went through all the lessons I learned years ago at my Active Parenting classes.  They strongly encouraged us to let our kids experience consequences for their own actions; otherwise, they turn into entitled brats and we fail as parents.  However, they also emphasized that we parents be able to live with those consequences. For example, you just don’t say, “Johnny, we’re canceling our Hawaii vacation if you don’t stop hitting your sister,” if you truly want to go to Hawaii.

So, I took a deep breath and went step-by-step:

1.  If I let Meg experience her mistake, then what are the consequences?

Well, she could just not dance with the team at this competition.  There will be other competitions (like one next weekend, in fact).  Or, she could wear her black jazz shoes instead on stage.  Sure, it doesn’t make any sound, but with over 25 kids tapping on stage, who’s really gonna know?  Alright, so maybe the judges who will deduct a few points…

2.  Whose responsibility was it to make sure the tap shoes were packed?

Both of ours.  Although dance is Meg’s own thing and she is normally very responsible for her age, she still is only 12.  With four different dance routines, it is hard for anyone to keep track of all the costumes and shoes, let alone by a 7th grader. We both should have been more careful.

3.  If I rescue her by going to buy new tap shoes, what are the consequences?

For one, I would be $65 poorer buying the same tap shoes I had just bought recently for this competition season.  Meg could also think that mommy will always be there to rescue her and not learn responsibility.  She could take me for granted and continue to think that money grows on trees.  Or she could be eternally grateful and someday look back at this competition fondly at mommy’s love in action.

Okay, that does it.  I called the local dance store to reserve those tap shoes in her size, then I hopped in the car.   What should have been a 10-minute drive turned out to be 25 heart-thumping-blood-pressure-rising-white-knuckling minutes in Friday traffic.  I was able to buy the shoes and return with only minutes to spare. Meg then got on stage with her team and danced fabulously.

Just as I predicted, Meg was very grateful.  She also said that she was not worried at all about it because she “knew you’d be back with the shoes on time.”  (Yikes!  I wasn’t so sure…) Even when the other dance moms were stressed out (i.e., freaking out) over the situation, Meg kept calm.

“I mean, what’s the worst that can happen?  I could have just worn my black jazz shoes, and no one would have noticed,” she explained.

I love that things don’t rattle her like they did when I was her age.  I wish I had learned long ago the truth from 1 Peter 5:7:

Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.

If this incident taught Meg the true meaning of this verse, then I just might have made the right choice.

And you, parents — what would you have done?

The Show Must Go On

The previous day ended like this:

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“It hurts to pump the soap out of the dispenser,” cried Meg.  Although perhaps not as important as her feet in dance, her left arm is nonetheless crucial at certain points in the group routine.  “We’ve worked so hard on this dance.  I can’t let my team down tomorrow!”

When Meg turned 3, I became a dance mom.  I thought I was going to be a soccer mom, but my kids never warmed up to soccer.  “Soccer uniforms are ugly,” she declared.  Certainly true, compared to dance costumes.  We’ve been going to various dance competitions since she was 5.  If I were an outsider walking into these dance events, I’d think that I was observing one of those reality shows where little girls wear false lashes and gaudy makeup to live out their moms’ dreams.  The first time I caked on makeup on my 5-year old’s face, I prayed that the Lord would forgive me and that I wasn’t corrupting her character forever.

I’ve since learned that dance actually requires some major skills.  The girls don’t just stand there looking pretty.  It takes team work, determination, and quite a bit of athleticism.  I still wish we didn’t have to put such heavy makeup on little girls to dance, but at least Meg has picked up some wonderful makeup skills along the way.

Anyway, loaded up on Advil, Meg bravely faced The Day.

Time to get ready for the show

She was still in quite a bit of pain as she applied makeup, but she didn’t want to wear a brace nor her sling.  She got dressed and ran through the routine with the team several times.  On the second to the last time through, she used her left arm to push herself off the floor like normal and felt a sharp pain.  “I think I hurt it again, mom,” she stated while holding back tears.  She worked with the choreographer to modify the routine just a bit.

I took my seat in the audience a few minutes before their routine.  I held my breath as she bravely walked on stage and began dancing with the dozen other girls on the team.  I was just hoping that she wouldn’t break down in the middle of the routine, wincing in pain, and they’d have to call the ambulance to rescue my 11-year old off the stage.  They would have to stop the entire show as they placed her on the gurney, and in the morning the front page of the paper would say…

Sometimes mom’s imagination takes her to strange places.

For the most part, you couldn’t tell that there was anything amiss.  In the two or three instances where she normally would pushed herself off the floor with both arms, she only used her right arm and slipped out of time a tiny bit.  In another spot where she was supposed to really use both arms, she walked off very jazz-like to the wings as if it was planned all along.

Meg, right, with the rest of her dance team

When it was over, I could breathe again.  My heart almost burst with pride. No, it wasn’t her finest dance, but it was her best effort.  She wore her game face the whole time, and she never gave up.

I am glad that she understands when the show must go on.  You can’t just curl up into a ball, sulk in the corner, and give up.  I supposed this is what these extracurricular activities are supposed to teach you: perseverance.  Life lessons.  I don’t care if it’s ice skating, swimming, soccer, or dance — these activities help kids build character so they can someday be functioning adults.  Sometimes, it’s not easy on us mom’s hearts, however.

“First place!” announced the judges.  Never mind that they were the only entrants in this particularly category.  I thought they deserved the gold medal.

Can they give out medals to moms too, please?

Meg and her friend Ally after the show, relieved.

What activities do your kids do, and how have they helped them grow?  How have they helped you grow as a mom?