I recently signed Madeline up for a very laid-back ballet class at the Family Y. It’s nothing fancy and is focused on fun and movement. She seemed to really enjoy the first few classes, although I always chuckled when she told me she was the fastest runner in class. She was. The only problem was they weren’t supposed to be running. The other girls were daintily gliding across the floor on their toes while my child zoomed past them like a gazelle in a tutu. Maybe soccer would be a better fit?
But today when we were getting ready to go, my little girl started crying. She didn’t want to go to ballet. She didn’t want to go last week either, so I decided to withdraw her from the program even if I lose out on the activity fee I’ve already paid. I just don’t feel ballet class is something I should be fighting about with my 3-year-old. Choose your battles, right?
Well, I asked her if it was okay if she quit going. She said yes. I asked her why she didn’t like it anymore. “I don’t know,” she said.
Then, a few seconds later she looked right at me and said, “Mommy, I know why. My body’s more sensitive and it can’t do the things the other girls can.”
“What do you mean?” I asked.
Her eyes filled with more tears. “I can’t do the things the other girls can,” she repeated.
Back in college I wrote a short story about a girl’s glass ballerina that shattered into hundreds of tiny shards. The ballerina was a symbol of her ego, her life – fragile and nearly broken.
Now I was faced with my own glass ballerina, and my heart is breaking thinking of how fragile and sensitive she is. I’ve always been aware of her heightened empathy and sensitivity. She gets really upset when she sees others crying or when a child falls gets hurt.
I’m also worried my own struggle with perfectionism is already rubbing off on her. I don’t want her to be like her mom, someone who has always been afraid to try new things unless I know I’ll excel at them. I want her to do things because they’re fun, not because she’s good at them or is the star of the class or the team.
I don’t want to push her to do something she doesn’t want to do either. So, for now, we’ll put on classical music and dance on our tippy-toes (or run) in the comfort of our home. She won’t have to worry about being the best. She won’t have to wear ballet shoes (unless she wants to) and she won’t have to worry about performing for anyone.
And I’ll try to piece back together my glass ballerina. This is one hurt I can put a band-aid on, but I know there are going to be others that I won’t be able to fix, and that’s what, I fear, will make broken glass out of me.