I’ve never been much of a “girly girl.” Growing up, I spent the bulk of my time in trees, climbing birches and scuffing my knees. In middle school, I played basketball; I was one hell of a point guard. And in high school, I didn’t go to see rom-coms like my peers. I donned fishnets and black makeup. I went to midnight screenings of the “Rocky Horror Picture Show.” So imagine my surprise when I gave birth to a daughter — a dress-loving, high-heel-wearing little girl. Oh, and to a dancer. A pint-sized powerhouse full of smiles, personality, splits, and spunk. Because while I always knew I wanted to be a mother, I never thought I would be that mom: a dance mom.
Let me explain.
When my daughter was little — very little — I knew she was different. Well, different from me. She was friendly and outgoing. She would say “hi” to anyone we would meet and (literally) hugged strangers on the street. My daughter loved playing dress up. She always wanted to wear bows and ball gowns, and she twirled and swayed whenever she heard a song. She regularly made up dances and put on plays. So I enrolled her in dance class, because treating my kids as individuals is important to me.
I didn’t want to force her into soccer or onto a pint-sized basketball team.
We bought tights and leotards, tap shoes and ballet flats. I got her a pink tutu, the fluffy kind Fancy Nancy would wear. And I bought her a dance bag because it was cute. With white polka dots and a pink ballerina on the front, it just felt right. But beyond that, I knew nothing of what it meant to be a dance mom. Scratch that: I had a lot of preconceived notions about “dance moms,” all of which were wrong.
You see, there are a few monikers that always worried me. Cheer mom. Stage mom. Dance mom. I thought these women were overbearing and overwhelming. Pushy, self-fulfilling, and rude. I imagined the competitive world of dance to be as it was pictured on TV, full of tears and false lashes, bitching and backstabbing. And while the former is (half) true — while my daughter does don lipstick and lashes when she takes the stage — the rest was bullshit. It was a misconception, of mine and many. And today I am thankful for my role: I am damn proud to be a dance mom.
Why? Because when my daughter is in her happy place — and dance space — her eyes light up. She oozes confidence. When my daughter is dancing, the weight of the world feels lighter. My full attention is focused on her and her routine, as is hers. State tests be damned. During dance, she is able to move and sway freely. She knows what she knows and feels the beat. And when my daughter is at dance, she is comfortable and happy. Some of her best friends are also “dance friends.” She adores both her teachers and peers. Her teammates and their parents are also some of the sweetest, most supportive people I have ever met. There is no chattiness or cattiness. I am proud to support her endeavors. I love cheering her (and her team) on.
But that’s not all. My daughter’s dedication to dance — and hard work — has also taught me a lot about pursuing my own happiness and fulfilling my dreams. I see her swaying her hips on stage and I aspire to be like her. I want to love something the way she loves her sport. And yes, dance is a sport. I want to smile widely, like she does. I want to unleash a genuine, toothy grin, and I want an ounce of her confidence. Because of her, I am reanalyzing my life — re-prioritizng my roles, goals, and dreams.
Make no mistake: I still struggle, which is to say I’m not a good dance mom. I have a hard time doing her hair. Her friends sport perfect, slicked back ponytails while hers is always lumpy and bumpy. I do a horrid smokey eye. I just throw gray and black on her lids and hope it works, and lashes terrify me — as does red lipstick. It’s also very time consuming. My daughter is at dance four days a week. But the crazy competitive nature which is often portrayed by the media doesn’t exist. There is no yelling or screaming, at least not at my studio, not amongst my fellow moms. Instead, there is solidarity and camaraderie. There is unwavering love and support, and I am proud to be a part of this community. I am honored to be a dance mom.