Thursday, July 3, 2014

My Daughter, Myself

"And thou shalt in thy daughter see, this picture, once, resembled thee." ~A. Philips

Monkey and her classmates waiting in the wings during recital

I always wanted my daughter to be her own person, I just never realized how much it would hurt. Being so similar is a double edged sword; on one hand, you always know you can find things you'll have fun doing with her. But on the other hand, when she rejects doing something you treasure so much, it feels more like she's rejecting part of yourself.
Monkey has talked about being a ballerina ever since she was four years old and watched "Barbie and the 12 Dancing Princesses." When I signed her up for classes a year later, she was very put out that she was required to take tap as well, because all she wanted to do was be a ballerina. It took a year and a half, but she was finally in an all ballet class this year. Since this should have been a glorified accomplishment for her, to say I was taken aback by all her complaining was an understatement. She complained about the stretching, she complained about the pointing, she complained about having to repeat the routine over, and over, and over again, to get it right. The final blow came a week before recital - she calmly informed me as I was reading over the summer schedule that she didn't think she wanted to take dance anymore. I think my heart might have actually stuttered as I tried not to cry. 
What I would give to go back to ballet class. To feel that warm limbed exhaustion from working every muscle group you weren't aware you even had, or reveling in that in weightless feeling when you're flying through a grand jeté. I even miss the blisters and missing toenails displayed in old flip flops in November, because you put in six extra hours of practice in a week so you could join in a special production of The Nutcracker as a snowflake. But I had to remind myself that she wasn't me. I didn't want to heap all these memories on her to guilt her to keep going just so I could live vicariously through her.
So her second recital this year became a bittersweet one. I sat in the audience through the first show to try and soak up all the dancing I could, and then volunteered as the class mom with her and her classmates through the second show in the afternoon. Recitals were always my favorite growing up, with the anticipation and adrenaline mixing with makeup and costumes. And as I sat "backstage" in the freezing cold high school lunchroom, watching the girls playing tag, reapplying makeup, or doing one last run through of their routine, I tried to take it all in. The realization that this might be my last time experiencing this made a little lump in my throat. Lining Monkey up to go on with her classmates, I watched them as they sat in the wings wide eyed watching the older girls before them perform their routine and I was transported back in time to my own girlhood. The smell of rosin and gaffer tape and hairspray all mixed together in my mind, and I just sat there for a moment savoring the memories. And after her number, when she rushed out of the doors and into my arms all breathless and exhilarated from performing she hugged me tight and looked up at me and said, "Mommy? I think I still want to do just one more year of dance."
Maybe that means I'll get one more year of memories too.

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