My 4-year-old daughter participated in her first dance recital yesterday. It came after a full year of classes with her 3 to 5-year-old peers. I admit to feeling a little nervous for her: being on a stage, the lights, the full audience. She got nervous when I told her I was leaving to go sit with my husband, mother, and mother-in-law. So, I applied more lipstick (yes, I put some make-up on my 4-year-old), fixed her costume, and tried to leave the room.
Something occurred to me then: I am being a “stage mom.” This is so not me!
She was tearful and wavering and while I was telling her how much fun she was going to have, I was really thinking: You will get on that stage and dance and you will like it! I was thinking of all of the money we put into the class, shoes, and costumes. And I was thinking I did not want her to regret sitting it out. I became consumed with the need for my daughter to complete her dances on stage and feel good about it.
Each time I tried to leave the room, she clung to me. Luckily, some of the older dancers came over and talked to her and then I was able to leave while she was receiving some special attention from them.
Why do we, as parents, become so caught up in moments like these? I truly only wanted her to have this experience and not have any regrets. I was also mindful of “pushing” her, but not too far since I wanted her to actually have fun with her friends when on stage.
All I can say is: when my daughter ran into my arms holding her trophy at the end of the performance, I had never felt so proud of her. She worked through her anxiety, allowed others to help her through it, and had the biggest smile when I picked her up and gave her a hug and kiss. When I told her how proud of her I was, she repeated it back to me. She felt it.
I think both of us learned something at this recital: I can hold her and encourage her as much as I want, but she is her own person and will get through things with me–and sometimes without me–by using whatever resources available. That is a great lesson, and definitely worth a trophy or two.