I think I’m back. Well, the kids are in school, I’m writing, editing, organising carpools, meal planning… all the stuff we’re lucky enough to take a break from over the summer. Honestly, having your parents cook and buy groceries when you’re visiting is heaven on earth.
We had a wonderful summer, even if it involved a lot of schlepping around the States on the family roadshow. But the trip made me appreciate how:
1. It’s impossible to get tweens to function before noon;
2. A fast rollercoaster can actually make you cry with laughter; and
3. Country-hiphop as a genre (aka ‘Cruise’ by Florida Georgia Line) is just a really, really bad idea.
I also realised that my kids are becoming people who are amazing and funny and wonderful to be around. I know I’m gushing here, but it’s true. They’ve always been like that (she says humbly), it’s just that growing up has a wonderful way of banishing those obstacles – car seats, potty training, sippy cups – that can often get in the way of enjoying them as people. We still have our battles, don’t get me wrong, but we’ve hit our stride as a family and it is a delight. I keep saying to my daughters, ‘You know you can be 10 for as long as you want’ or ‘Why don’t you stay 12 for, like, 3 more years?’. That would be fine with me.
In a similar vein (bear with me here), lately I’ve had several conversations with mamas about ballet. Their daughters are three or four years old and are keen to take ballet lessons. What’s interesting is that, as we talk, these mamas sound somewhat embarrassed, as if they should apologise for their daughters being girly. That maybe there’s something old-fashioned or retro (and not in a cool, ‘Mad Men’ kind of way) about pink leotards and tights and buns. Not ‘unfeminine’ so much as ‘unfeminist’.
Mind you, most of my friends are sporty types. And my daughters and their friends are all athletic. But my daughter took ballet for eight years and she loved it. And I loved being a dance mom. Man, I could put together an awesome bun, I tell you. My daughter has stepped away from ballet this year to focus on swimming, and I feel a little sad that she won’t get the chance to dance. For her, I think, it was 45 minutes twice a week of pure simplicity. One teacher, a studio, music, and a small group of girlfriends from different schools, skipping and sashaying and leaping across the floor. How many of us get to enjoy that on a regular basis?
When my other daughter was taking hip-hop a couple years back, we went to the Christmas recitals and got to see the kids perform a whole range of styles: tap, classical, lyrical, jazz and street dance. I always marvelled at the older girls who just threw themselves in to their modern dance routines. They ranged in age from 14 to 18, and they weren’t all tall, willowy types. They were good, but to be honest, we were never going to see them on ‘So You Think You Can Dance’. But that didn’t matter. Dance is one of those things- like singing – that the amateur can embrace as much as the professional. Fully committed, free of doubt or self-consciousness, these girls felt the music; they owned their emotion. And as I watched them, I felt like something was right with the world. That it wasn’t uncool for young girls to express their angst or joy or confusion with step-hops, grapevines and jazz hands. With contemporary routines choreographed to pop songs. With the everlasting, life-affirming idea to turn to your friend and say, ‘Let’s make up a dance!’
So, I tell you sporty/strong/modern mamas out there, embrace the tutu! Let your daughter dance! Self-expression – like a 60 mph rollercoaster- is good for the soul!
Jennifer is a writer, director, video editor and Texan mum to two tweens. She loves to check out live music, harbours a small obsession with maneki-neko (Japanese lucky cats) and thinks all young people should read trench poetry and watch the films of Peter Weir and Billy Wilder. You can find her awesome blog here. Contact Jennifer at [email protected].