My daughter has been doing ballet for the last few months, she gets dressed up in her leotard and skirt, her bun in her hair, she loves this Saturday morning routine and the sense of purpose that it brings. That little girl she once was is being replaced with this grown up dramatic version who takes herself very seriously. When she is in that dance studio, she is fully absorbed in the music and lets herself go, moving with the elegance and poise that most of us wished we had. The teacher at the dance school is very strict, this was something I was uncomfortable with at the beginning. The lifestyle that we lead is a free thinking one and though our days have some structure, I do not believe in this draconian way of teaching that is from a bygone era. I respect that dance is a serious business but realistically how serious can 5 and 6-year-olds take anything? Maybe if she was focused more on realistic expectations the class would be a more harmonious one. The bizarre thing is all these little girls really like the teacher, they are mesmerised by all she has to show them, listening eagerly to try and recreate the vision she is trying to help them create. We have let our daughter choose her own path on this one, if she enjoys it and wants to continue to go then we will endeavour to support her on this, she, after all, is the one who has to do the classes and obviously deems that the teachers behaviour is acceptable to her standards and as ballet is something she really wants to do she is prepared to put up with short-term pain for the long-term gain.
All the parents gather in the waiting area, crammed together like sardines to gain a peek at all the little ballerinas. Not a week goes past that one of the parents will not mention the dreaded words and fun killer of all hobbies ‘when can they take exams’ and ‘how are they getting on’ its like we have some kind of obsession with testing our children on everything, school is not enough. We have to carry that through to anything they participate in. Is that not the point of hobbies? They are supposed to be fun, surely it is possible to do something just because we enjoy it. We are bringing our children up to have their own sense of purpose and gratification, this does not need to be reinforced by vigorous testing which is a poor representation of what they know anyway as put under pressure we can all lose our nerve and become unable to perform satisfactorily . Some of those poor girls are heartbroken when they are told they are not ready to do exams or that their heads were in the clouds during the class or that they should be in the class below as they can’t skip. They are being brought up with the need to please everyone and the pressure that they have to constantly not only succeed but to improve and keep getting better, anything contrary to that is deemed not good enough. All that happens is the child’s creativity is zapped, as soon as we feel we are not good at something the urge to give up is overwhelming and it is easier not to continue. Having an unrealistic expectation for our children causes them great pain and suffering, surely we can all enjoy things without even being particularly good at it? We always emphasise the most important part of activities our kids participate in, is having fun. It is near on impossible to find interests that are not driven by results and where failure is not tolerated as this is the society that we live in, the one where everyone is looking to be the best at everything, sacrificing anything or anyone in the process. People are ruthless and take no prisoners. This is stemmed from parents creating this vicious cycle from an early age, which is founded by their own altruism which enables them to self-indulgently revel in the illusion of their child being ‘better’ than someone else’s. Each child is beautiful and unique in their own way, the only person they should be pitted against are themselves.
Suffice to say I have not asked the ballet teacher how my daughter is getting on, I do not need that reiteration for my own self gain. I can see for myself how she is getting on, it does not have to be measured, she does not have to be tested. I can see how touched she is by participating in this beautiful art and for now it is something that she greatly enjoys, that is enough for me. To see your children happy is one of the biggest gifts you can ever have. Sometimes it is ok just to be, not to get better at something, not to get worse but just to live and enjoy, we do not always need to seek to be more…..