Yesterday I picked up my eldest grandchild from her ballet class. She is 7 and she is about to be in her first concert with her class of eight little girls. She wasn’t quite finished when I got there, so she invited me in to watch her rehearsal.
She is tall and lean and leggy, and she has been learning ballet for only a few months, but she really looked the part with the white leotard and pink slippers and little crossover cardy. I don’t think that I will spoil anything by telling you that her dance is to “I Want to be Where the People Are” from “The Little Mermaid,” and she isn’t Ariel.
She was tip-toeing and wafting her arms around in the chorus and doing little jumps and knee-bends (we used to call them petits jetesand plies and porte-de-bras, but I guess they don’t anymore) and I did what I usually do every time I see little kids trying so hard to do things that the teacher wants: I cried.
I am such a sap, but anyone who knows me will think I am making this all up. After all, my own kids used to call me Mr. Spock for my lack of emotional demonstrativeness and my tendency to intellectualize away everything. The other thing I used to do, which I deeply regret, was to be critical. I always felt that it was dishonest to gush over every little thing, and that it would be more instructive for the child to know that, say, the piano playing wasn’t that great and it wouldn’t be great unless more practice was going to happen. Or the toe wasn’t pointed properly and the arms were a bit stiff. Here, do it like this! (I did ballet and tap for six years, from age 6-12. RAD training, exams, medals, everything.)
What I should have done was realize that my kids–in fact, most kids–are unlikely to actually become ballerinas or concert pianists, and they should just enjoy what they are doing. I should stop trying to live my thwarted dreams through them and just praise, praise, praise.
So the ballet chorus comprised of little girls of different heights and sizes and abilities, and they all looked like little pure angels, and they were enjoying themselves, and I was sniffling away, trying not to look like an idiot–this whole thing took not more than five minutes–and I got a bit of a quizzical look from my granddaughter. But she took it all in her stride and we went home and that was that.
Today I accompanied my daughter with her new baby to have his 6-week-old immunizations. He is, Baruch Hashem, a lovely plump baby with beautiful smooth olive skin and dark eyes, and he is just starting to smile and coo. He is, in short, adorable. Sure, he kvetches a bit and burps and farts, but that’s to be expected.
I preface the next part of this story with the statement that I am strongly pro-vaccination, but that’s not what I’m writing about. I’m writing about how I wanted to grab the baby and run. And how the sight of the needle sinking into the plump little thigh and the absolutely affronted protest from the baby–twice! Two jabs!–made me want to leap the vaccine fence and head for the hills. But I didn’t.
He cried for a few seconds, had a bit of a breastfeed, and fell asleep. He is fine. He will be fine, please God. He has been through worse (like, ahem, his
). He is a beautiful baby and he will not die of tetanus or diphtheria or polio or any of these nasties, for which I am extremely grateful. But seeing the needle in action? Not so much.
So I got teary at a ballet rehearsal and I had a subdued panic attack at the doctor. I know one thing: This grandparenting caper ain’t for sissies.