I took my daughter to a ballet class last week, parents were allowed to sit in and watch this one. I was excited, I wondered whether I would be allowed to take a photo or even film it. I knew I would cry as soon as it was her turn to gallop across the room. We got there early, parked up and waited outside the cricket pavilion classroom in the cold, watching everyone else arrive.
Us parents finally took our seats and the children all gravitated to the center of the room, circling around the ballet teacher. Except for mine. My daughter had suddenly become clingy and shy. At first I thought it was sweet, I held her, comforted her and waited for the moment she would join in. It didn't happen. After a while I started to think about what the other parents might be thinking. Perhaps I should be a bit more encouraging?
"Go on Phoebe, go and dance with your friends" No response.
I started to get annoyed. I started to feel frustrated. I acted out on these impulses.
"Phoebe, either join in or we go home!" I got up to get her jacket and my daughter started crying.
Now I worried even more about what the other parents were thinking - I was now the backdrop to their photographs and video footage. I looked at all the girls sweetly holding their skirts galloping across the room - it was Phoebe's turn next. I held my breath, hoping - she stood there wailing.
I turned away - feeling my eyes prickling with warm tears. I didn't like how I had managed this situation, why had I become annoyed? Why couldn't I have let her continue to sit on my lap, shy, but enjoying herself? I had been looking forward to this moment for days - we had both been excited. Why had I put more importance on what the other parents might think than on what my own daughter felt? I had caused this scene - not her.
Suddenly I felt those tears falling down my cheeks, there was my daughter standing next to me crying and there was I - also crying. I felt disappointment, shame, embarrassment and frustration all at once. I felt like an idiot with an ugly cry-face.
Thank goodness the class soon ended but before we could leave I found myself surrounded by concerned mothers, sweet, kind faces telling me not to worry - that their daughters had all been the same on different occasions. Well-meaning words, thoughtful and friendly - two of them gave me hugs - all trying to make me feel better but really making me feel worse.
So, I came away having learnt something in that ballet class (even if my daughter hadn't) - and it was to 'let her be'. In future if she feels shy, I will let her feel shy. Her time will come one day and my cajoling is not going to help - only perhaps to make me feel like I have lost. Because in that moment, I had lost, lost that precious chance to be the kind, supportive and patient mother who decides to put my daughter's feelings before my own.