So I’m officially a dance mom. And I haven’t posted much about it on my social media platforms because I hate boasting about my kids publicly. But I have learned so much, and this blog is about all the things I learn in my life, so here I go…
How did I get here? Well, Ethan joined a dance studio, Gift of Dance, owned and run by Amanda Klotz in June last year, and eased in with one hip-hop class per week, loving it. This year brought the opportunity to join a hip-hop crew which would participate in local competitions, so he tried out, and got in! In July, his classes jumped to 5 a week, and that’s where the learning began. He also got an acting part in the end of year concert. Heavens above, my poor little life.
Patience. The crew was not easy at first. Ethan was the only boy in a crew of 6 mostly-Afrikaans, more experienced dancers. And because girls at that age have already begun to grow (the only thing growing about Ethan is his hair), Ethan was also the smallest. The teacher would give instructions during the crew routine, and Ethan wouldn’t respond because he was trying to decipher what had been said, and so the girls would grab him and move him to the said position, and it just about drove him crazy. But in time, they began to know each other, give a little grace to each other, and the teacher would speak in English for Ethan’s sake. There were several times when Ethan got into the car after practice and said, It was great, I really enjoyed it. A few months later, the crew got another boy, now a firm friend!
How to braid hair. Ethan was in the process of growing out his hair. We cut it once, knowing short hair was easier, but he is a pretty determined little thing, so was growing it out again when he got into the crew. So for competition, the long bits on top had to be french plaited. Well, okay, they weren’t really long bits. They were irritating not-long-enough bits that caused untold stress and drama. Thank God for google, and for people who have nothing better to do with their time than post videos of how to french plait. I never got it right first time. He would look like an egg-headed alien if it was too loose, and my being a perfectionist meant any little lump poking up would have to be redone. Thankfully, his pain threshold is very high so he would never complain, and we learned to allocate triple the amount of time necessary so that I wasn’t rushing. Mostly, I got it right on the third time. For one competition, we had to arrive at the venue at 8 a.m. for a sound check, factoring in a one hour drive, so his hair had to be done at the venue, and it wasn’t working, and my hands started shaking, and I thought, This is it, I’m going to have a nervous breakdown over a plait. But somehow, we got it done. We’re all lucky he doesn’t have to wear make-up!
All of the hair products. I know them, and I have them. A mother-of-girls friend of mine told me about a liquid slime that sets the hair to not move for a year. Now in my cupboard. And I have a bajillion of the infuriating little black elastics that can be used to tie up tiny
man-boy-buns, but they are now on every counter in my house and they drive me crazy. I don’t know why they get everywhere. Maybe it’s because they come in packs of 200, so Ethan has no regard for the concept of re-use. And hairspray covers a multitude of hair wrongs, so hooray for hairspray.
How to live in the car. Computer for blogging, charger for phone, books, bottles of water and containers of almond nuts have sustained me for many an hour of waiting in the car park. Often, dashing home and trying to get stuff done in the time left before leaving to collect him again is more stressful than just resigning myself to the fact that I have an hour to kill. Honestly, I sometimes looked forward to the hour of solace. However, sometimes this happened: There are those who know. Moms around me have kids who have danced since they could walk, and this is all ‘old hat’ to them. So I sit close by and ask away. How do you deal with nerves? (Not your child’s, your own. It turns out, after the first competition, the kids don’t get nervous anymore. But the moms still forget to breathe during a performance.) How long will this day of qualifiers be? (Aaaalllllll day.) Should my husband come to these all-day things? (No. Definitely not.) Should he come to the end-of-year concert thing? (Yes. It’s totally different to a competition, it’s a show, and it’s beautiful.) Why do I have to pay to get in to watch the competition? (Because if your child dances, it doesn’t mean you’re royalty. They still have to make money, and life’s not fair, so pay up.)
Balls will be dropped, and I’m still not perfect. My fridge is covered in highlighted schedules and scripts, and my phone pings all day with whatsapp group messages. But I still had the heart-stopping experience of looking at my phone when I was at the supermarket, and the text said, “Is Ethan nearly here?” And no, Ethan is not nearly there. Ethan is at home, probably watching TV with his brothers, oblivious to his schedule which wreaks havoc on his mother’s brain. So the half-full trolley is abandoned, the child is transported via flying mom-wagon to his lesson, arriving a little late, and this little mommy goes wee-wee-wee crying all the way home, so annoyed that she got it wrong. And the next week, another mom gets the same message about her child, because who the heck could remember all those days and times anyway?
My child has unexpected confidence. This became clearly evident on the weekend of the Provincial competition in Camps Bay this weekend. In addition to the crews, there are “battles” which bore everyone to tears, because they take so long, and it’s usually not your kid dancing, so the parents zone out, and seek coffee. Each age group has individuals enter who are then paired up to ‘battle’ each other, whittling down to the final two to get the winner. Knowing how long the battles take, I went outside to get some fresh air, stretch and un-numb my bum. A few minutes later, another mom called me and said, “Lea! I think Ethan is doing the battle just now! They were just sorting out an entry number for him.”
“What?!” I say. What the bloody hell is he doing, I think. Sure enough, the tiny 12 year old is in the 12 to 16 year age group, gets selected for a battle, and ends up 4th. My heart was beating so hard, I could hardly breathe, and I forgot to press record on the video. Terrifying.
How to balance the instruction and encouragement. Blowing kisses as he walks off stage strikes me as arrogant, but he’s perhaps just enjoying the moment. He’ll get home soon, where he is constantly fighting for his place in the spotlight with 3 older louts, so I may just let that go. There is a weird grey area between confidence (aka pride? arrogance?) and humility, and to some extent, the two can co-exist, but it’s a hard balance. These are all new lessons I’m trying to figure out…to be watchful against pride (both his and ours), to encourage through the disappointments… but not so much that it’s unrealistic (don’t worry, Ethie, you’ll get gold next time, I’m sure. Duh…) to push when they become lazy or apathetic, to make sure they don’t stop receiving instruction / correction, and that all hard work will lead to better results, no matter the sacrifice of long hours and effort.
When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom. Proverbs 11:2
The emotions. In Ethan’s first competition, Heath was on my right, and Luke and Aiden on my left in the audience. As Ethan begins his routine, Luke and Aiden, wide-eyed with surprise, laugh out loud and say, Hey! He can really dance! Throughout the routine, I find myself wanting to burst into tears, instead I dig my nails into Heath’s leg and inhale sharply every time they get through a trick or sequence. This results in being fit to burst at the end, and I clap and scream, now wanting to laugh hysterically instead of cry, because they didn’t fall over, and it was exhilarating for this no-rhythm-white-chick-who-can’t-dance to watch.
Long may the dancing lessons (his…and mine) continue!
May the lessons learned in the quiet or the chaos lead you closer to Him.
“Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might…” Ecclesiastes 9:10