I’m sitting in an coffee shop with an old dance mom friend (our girls danced together for years and are now reunited on the middle school dance team) when she mentions one of the veteran members: “She’s been injured all year and couldn’t try out for the high school team. Can you imagine having everything you’ve ever wanted to do taken away from you just like that?”
“Yes. I can,” I say getting slightly teary. “Look what happened to Rosie.”
All my daughter’s ever wanted to to is float on stage in front of an audience. From the time she was three, she twirled around the house and as the years went on she became obsessed with the art of dance. She wanted to be a ballerina and dreamed of the day she’d get her pointe shoes.
While she worked hard, she had setbacks along the way. The year she was eleven, she had a major growth spurt giving her some knee issues, but she powered through and just after her twelfth birthday, her dream came true. She absolutely glowed the weekend she got her beautiful satin shoes. She lovingly sewed the ribbons on and she popped right up on pointe. She was dying to get to her first class.
Rosie never got the chance. In ballet class that day, she was at the barre when there was a loud POP in her foot. Injured, she fell to the ground and spent the rest of the night on ice. I didn’t find out until I picked her up.
“How was it?” I shrieked, so excited for her.
“Mama,” she said sobbing. “I didn’t get to do it. I got hurt.”
We were both stunned and hoped that it was just a minor setback. But, it wasn’t. Rosie blew out the deltoid ligament in her foot and as soft tissue injuries go, it would be a long recovery.
With her dancing dreams on hold for a while, Rosie didn’t want to miss dance and she sat through her classes in September and October. She started physical therapy in November and missed some classes but still attended her beloved Ballet Company. December came and she was able to do one of her roles for Nutcracker, but that was it. And, in the new year, we were told by her Ballet Mistress that she wasn’t ready to be back in company.
In February, Rosie shocked me when she told me she wanted to tryout for the middle school dance team. It was a decision she was making because she wanted to “feel like she was a good dancer and feel like she was part of something.” It was then that I realized how down and isolated my child really felt with her “real” dance life. And, while I knew this was a decision she probably wouldn’t have made if she wasn’t injured, I felt it was important for her self-esteem and confidence. I told her to “go for it.” She made the team and was overjoyed.
Yet, for all the happiness she felt, she still had a cloud over her head. All of her friends started to get their pointe shoes and still still wasn’t ready to get hers back. Some of the older girls, were not as supportive as we’d like. And, she needed to make some heavy decisions on what she really wanted to do moving forward- did she a) even want to continue working towards pointe and b) did she want to continue to be part of Ballet Company.
For a month, I tried to help my tween make her decision. I presented every possible scenario, dealt with endless “you don’t support me” rants, and tried to empower her to make the right choice for her. I knew she was frustrated, tired of sitting and watching and not feeling like part of her team and a little hurt. In my heart, I wanted her to get her shoes back and then choose what she wanted to do but she needed to decide what would make her happy. For four weeks, we had lots of discussions, a couple of fights and lots of tears on both ends (and as a mother the whole thing was killing me).
Last night, Rosie told me she didn’t want to Company today and that she really didn’t want to do the company number in recital since she “wasn’t really dancing”. Then she announced that she had made her decision. I waited with bated breath as she slowly told me what she planned to do.
“I am not going to audition next week. Since I can’t do anything anyway, I am going to wait until I am back on pointe,” she said. I smiled.
“I’m also going to stick to my original schedule for the summer. Even the classes I hate. And, I am going to work hard and like it.”
At that moment, I reflected on the past year. Rosie had everything she cared about taken away, yet she was still responsible sitting through countless hours where she couldn’t dance. She took a big risk trying out for dance team. And, while she had frustrations (and a couple of big meltdowns in studio), she still decided to stay the course.
It was then I knew that my daughter had lived up to her nickname. While a rose is absolutely beautiful, it can be tough too. Just look at the thorns. I’ve never been more proud to be her mother.