Her Dissapointment or Mine?

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For weeks, she tried on her new leotard again and again, ran around the house in pink tights, and completed wild twirls in ballet slippers. And each and every day my four-year-old daughter asked, “Is ballerina class tonight?”

I should have realized that all of this anticipation would surely lead to disappointment, but I was too busy wrapped up in my daughter’s smiles and excitement.

On the morning of her first class, I was folding laundry downstairs when she pranced into the room wearing her ballet outfit. “I’m ready!” she exclaimed in her sing-songy voice.  I smiled. We still had five more hours until the start of her class.

After a day of endless waiting, we finally arrived at the school where the class was to be held. As she climbed out of the car, she looked up at me and furrowed her brow.  “I don’t think this is where ballerina class is, Mom.”

I watched a line of girls in tutus skip after their parents through a side door into the elementary cafeteria. I reassured her, “This is the right spot. Let’s go dance!”

We headed in, and she surveyed the room skeptically. It was a small, plain cafeteria with tables shoved to the sides and a large green mat in the middle of the floor. “This doesn’t look like ballerina class,” she mumbled as she put on her ballet slippers.

I smiled. “It is! Look at all of the girls getting ready. And there’s your teacher.” I gestured to the middle-aged woman sitting on the floor flipping through some papers. She was in baggy sweatpants and a polo shirt.

“She doesn’t look like a ballerina,” she argued.

I shushed her and pointed to some of the other girls sitting on the mat. “Go ahead. Join the other girls.  This is going to be fun!”

My daughter slowly walked to the mat and sat with the other girls as I whipped out my camera with the other moms. I proudly watched as she followed the teacher’s instructions and stretched her arms and legs.  However, a moment later she turned to me and glared. “This isn’t ballerina class!” she insisted loudly. I smiled but felt the tension creep into my body.  This was not going to be good.

“It’s just warm-ups. You need to get your muscles ready,” I reassured from my seat at one of the cafeteria tables as I heard a few of the other moms chuckle.

Moments later, while the teacher was leading the little girls around the room as they all tried to kick their butts with their slippered feet, my daughter stopped in front of me and grabbed my leg angrily. “Mom,” she barked. “This is NOT ballerina class.”

Again I tried to reassure her, but I could sense her frustration escalating. Moments later, she started to break down. Unfortunately, this is our new norm lately. Whenever she is frustrated, or overwhelmed, she just can’t seem to calm herself down.  There is stomping and whining, which quickly escalates to body contortions and tears.

I managed to get her back to the mat with the other girls, but she returned again and again to my seat. I tried to be encouraging, but that made her cling to me. I tried to ignore her, but that made her louder. I tried to scold her, but that made her cry harder (and me feel awful).

I spent the remaining thirty minutes angrily gesturing for her to go back to the mat with the other girls as I watched her scrunch up her face and cry; I also spent the remaining thirty minutes wondering if I was teaching her a valuable lesson or simply torturing her.

When the class was finally over, I was disappointed, frustrated, and angry. I hadn’t expected her to be a star ballerina by any means, but I had truly thought that it was going to be one of those magical moments of pure childhood happiness. After all, she had been begging to do this for months.

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During the ride home, I lectured. I told her that she did not try her best, and I was disappointed that she didn’t listen to her teacher. She was unfazed, so I nagged and scolded more.  I only accomplished making myself more upset.

It wasn’t until late at night, when I couldn’t sleep and my frustration and anger had subsided, that I realized the root of the problem. Because of my own disappointment in her actions, I had not recognized that she had been just as disappointed in the class.

My daughter had imagined a scene from a television show or book when I told her she would be going to ballet class.  She had most likely pictured a beautiful sunlit studio, not a dark cafeteria with posters of the food  pyramid on the walls.  In her mind, a tall, thin, beautiful ballerina would lead the girls as they flawlessly jumped and twirled across the stage. Instead, she had a slightly overweight (but very kind and patient!), tired woman trying to control a class of twelve preschoolers with silly games.

I’m sure she also envisioned glitter… lots of glitter.

Her expectations had not been met, and I should have been able to see this earlier, but I had been blinded by my own disappointment. I had been aiming for the fairytale, as well.  I wanted the version where my girl smiled, danced, and laughed her way through class.  Instead, she gave up and turned into a whiny mess.

I was also disappointed in myself.   Only after the fact did I realize that I had not done a good job of preparing her for what to expect. She is only four. Of course she has unrealistic expectations!  Her only frame of reference is Angelina Ballerina and some other book we read where a cat named Mia performs in a ridiculous snow ballet.

Sure, it would have been ideal if my child had not given up and had persevered despite her disappointment, but I can’t expect that to just magically happen. She has to learn to do this.

So, we will return. We will try again. I guarantee there will be more tears – hers? mine? It’s anybody’s guess. But, the important thing is that we will be there. She will stretch, point her toes, bend her knees, and hopefully start to realize that there is beauty in these small steps.

 

If you haven’t already, hop on over to my facebook page,   One Mile Smile,  and tell me what activities have been a bust for your kids.  Future posts of mine may include: “My Son Likes to Throw Soccer Balls at Parents in the Crowd” and “Watching My Son Wrestle Makes Me Cry.”

 

 

 

 

Feeding the Dinosaurs

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A recent conversation with my son:

S:  Is a whale bigger than all the land?

Me: No. A whale is bigger than our car, though.

S: Is The Hulk bigger than a whale?

Me: No.

S: But can The Hulk crush a whale?

Me:  Probably not.  Whales live deep in the ocean.

S:  Is a whale bigger than the ocean?

Me:  No, a whale lives in the ocean.

S: Then is a whale bigger than all the land?

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And it goes on and on and on … And I love it. My son was a late talker, but he is attempting to make up for that now. If you give him the least bit of attention, he will talk your ear off.  His favorite topic right now is dinosaurs. He knows them all, even the less familiar ones like  Pachycephalosaurus, Mamenchisaurus, and Archaeornithomimus.  I stumble my way through the pronunciations, and he corrects me as I read him the same book … over and over.

Like many kids, he tends to develop slight obsessions with things he finds interesting. For instance, in early December, he became fascinated with buffalo after visiting the Washington Zoo.  My boy, who never remains still, stood in fascination for a good fifteen minutes watching the animals graze in the field. After that, it was a series of never-ending questions:  Do we eat buffalo? Are buffalo bigger than dinosaurs? Would a lion eat a buffalo?

Jumping on this newfound interest, I quickly ordered a buffalo stuffed animal to give to him on Christmas. When he opened the package, he grinned in excitement. I had momentary thoughts of this becoming his new favorite cuddle animal and how he would introduce the buffalo to his other favorite animals, seal and lion cub.

But, instead, he grabbed the poor, stuffed buffalo and immediately “fed” him to the gigantic T-Rex he also received.  Basically, I had just given him the gift of raw meat for his dinosaur collection.

As he plays, the dinosaurs viciously tear into all sorts of stuffed animals: buffalo, cats, chipmunks, and seals. No animal is safe in his Jurassic world.

During one of these prehistoric battles, my son looks up at me for approval.  I don’t quite know how to respond.  This play is so different than what I am used to.  I’m not sure what to do? Condone this violent behavior? It is only dinosaurs.  Applaud his resourcefulness in providing a nourishing meal for his dinosaurs? But, he is acting out death scenes! Gruesome ones!

I make a frightened face. He smiles, turns to his dinosaurs, and continues to sacrifice his animals to the meat-eaters.

I hope these looks for approval don’t stop. I hope I always know the right expression to show him. The one that says:  Yes, you are doing a good job. Yes, I will watch you – even when you are acting out vicious dinosaur death scenes. Yes, I will love you no matter what. 

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A Good Day for a Cup of Tea

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My great-grandmother, grandmother, mother, and me:  Spring 1979

Sixteen years after her death, I still miss my mother every day. So many of my memories of her involve a cup of tea. Her View From Home (a fun site with lots of good reads!) recently published my essay Tea With My Mother about this. Check it out if you get a chance. And if you like it, or it moves you, comment or share it!

 

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I’m also curious, what are items that you associate with ones you have lost?   Besides tea cups and my mom, I always think about my PopPop when I make scrambled eggs. He made the BEST scrambled eggs ever. I never come close to replicating them, but I just made some scrambled eggs for my son and smiled when I thought of him.

I’m sure you have some touching stories to share, and I would love to hear them. Comment below!

Also, if you like what you are reading on the blog, please follow me here or on my (new!) facebook page.  Thanks!

Too Much Princess?

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It started slowly:  a “Let It Go” lyric here and there, a preference toward anything pink, and a squeal of excitement when she saw a princess doll in the toy store.  And then it gained momentum:  demands to listen to Disney music on the stereo, a refusal to watch movies without princesses, and then actually cutting her own hair to imitate the hair cutting scene in Tangled.Read More »

Story Time at the Library

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The librarian reads stories of clouds and shapes as my daughter turns to scowl in my direction. When she makes eye contact, she swirls back around in a silent huff. She is mad at me because I won’t sit with her on the mat with all of the other children.

She has been sitting on her own with the other children with no problem for months. She usually skips to the front of the room and doesn’t glance back at me until they all sing a song, clap, and wave good-bye.

It wasn’t always like that. In fact, some of my children’s worst behaviors seem to come out when we go to story time at the library: tantrums, epic crying fits, hitting, block throwing, unloading book shelves, screaming, and pushing the handicap door opener over and over again.

When my daughter was six months old, we attended regularly. Her brother was two; he was wild and somewhat uncontrollable. I would try to chase him around the room and get him to sit still, or at least stay in the general vicinity of the story area, while she desperately clung to me.  If I sat her down or left her in her car seat on the floor next to the board books, she would cry. She would only be happy on my lap or in my arms.

It was nearly impossible to take them both to story time. I was tired of all of the sympathetic or annoyed looks, so we took some time off. I put my son in gymnastics where his wild behaviors did not stand out so much, and his sister could happily sit on my lap for thirty minutes.

Over the past few years, we have participated in story time here and there. Sometimes it was successful. Other times, not so much. This summer we started attending regularly again. Magically, when we arrived at the first session, my children sat, they listened, they participated … as long as they were both on my lap.

Over the next few months, I managed to ease my way back to the comfy chairs designated for the parents while they sat with the other children and behaved themselves. Library success!

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Today not so much. My son is now slumped over and refusing to participate because I won’t let him leave the room to look for dinosaur books. I keep trying to make eye contact with him to give him one of my fierce mom looks, so he will stop edging his way toward the door.

Meanwhile, I am trying not to make eye contact with my daughter and feed into her drama.  But, she is good at holding a grudge and manages to keep her pouty face on for at least half of story time. At one point, she even flops down on the floor and covers her face.

Then the librarian leads the group in a silly dance, and she forgets all about why she is mad. She smiles and hops and twirls with the other kids.  For a moment, she forgets all about her mom sitting in the back of the room.

Surprisingly, I’m a little sad when story time is over, and she runs to a corner with two other girls to play picnic while my son walks to the other room to read about meat-eating dinosaurs.  My lap isn’t needed so much anymore.