My three year old daughter, Reece, is in dance class. She loves the weekly ballet/tap sessions at the studio, but doesn’t enjoy the recitals. At the Christmas Show, she cried and refused to go on stage without me. So, I had to accompany her for both of dance numbers. Sure, it was cute to watch her (reluctantly) dance around, but it felt like I was twisting her little toddler arm the whole time. She’s three, and this is supposed to be fun.
So, when the time came to sign up for the summer recital, I decided to opt out. Between the participation fee, cost of the costume, and recital tickets, the cost seemed to outweigh the forced experience. Reece won’t even know what she is missing. No big deal.
That was a few months ago. Today at class, the dancers received their costumes. Their pink, sparkly, ruffly, flashy, bright, twirly, special costumes. All the dancers tried them on and lined up to practice the dance.
Reece was the only dancer who wasn’t in costume. Anticipating her disappointment, I pulled her aside.
Reece, do you see how the dancers are putting on costumes?
Yes. They’re so pretty.
Sweetie, you don’t have a costume to wear today. I didn’t buy one because we are not doing the recital. And we have a lot of costumes at home that you get to wear whenever you want.
I know. I love costumes.
I felt like a schmuck.
She is only three years old. What am I doing? What was I thinking? She is going to feel so left out.
I stood outside and watched through the window as the dancers lined up to practice – my girl standing at the end of the sparkly pink line up in her black leotard. And I waited for her to cry, or frown, or show some understandable sign of disappointment.
Instead, she waited for the music to start and then went about her thing. She smiled, twirled, tapped, and shuffled. She didn’t miss a beat. She didn’t say one word about the costumes on the walk to the car or drive home. The only thing she regretted is that she didn’t get to wear her ballet shoes (since they practiced their tap number the whole class).
I felt proud and inspired and hopeful.
I know, I know. It’s not like she graduated from the School of Hard Knocks or anything. It’s just a dance costume. I see that. But, it was a meaningful experience, maybe more for me than for Reece.
Life is full of such encounters. There are sparkles & ruffles, bells & whistles, prosperity & happiness all around us. The inevitable reality is, we don’t always get a fair dose.
You won’t always get a costume. Heck, you may never get a costume. While it may be your mom’s fault, it is what it is. And the sooner you get over it, the sooner you appreciate what life has to offer.
The key is recognizing the costume for what it is – something special and pretty. It doesn’t define the dance. And, although we may lack the costume, we sure as hell aren’t any less special or pretty ourselves.