There Goes That Mother of the Year Award, No. 3498

I'm just a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad mother.

Today, I MADE my older daughter go to Dance Camp! Such extreme torture, such callousness! Gosh, what kind of mother am I to place my daughter in such dire straits??

This is the description posted on the Synergy Dance Studio "Our weekly themed camps include Ballet, Tap, Jazz, Hip-hop, Musical Theatre, Gymnastics, African, Cheerleading, Dance Team and of course Arts & Crafts. Our camps are geared toward ages 4-12, 10 am – 3 pm with extended hours available. Let your dancer explore his/her artistic side as they (sic) participate in a variety of activities from dressing up to be a ballet prince/princess to acting in a commercial like a movie star!"

(Sorry, had to show that I didn't actually do that pronoun reference mistake myself. Once an Editor, always an Editor, I guess.)

Anyway, you can tell that this camp is akin to forcing my kid into some sweat shop in Honduras where she sits hunched over a sewing machine, sewing Kathy Lee Gifford's clothing. (Okay, so that was mean. Sue me.)

I really do feel bad because I got angry as Ana sat there crying about how she didn't want to go. "I quit dance because I don't LIKE it," she said. And I said, (ack, this is so awful, I want to throw up) "You quit because dance takes discipline and it's more fun to lie around claiming everything is boring than to actually DO SOMETHING. You're just LAZY."

Nothing like labeling my children with negative labels in hopes of getting better behavior out of them. I hear that a VERY useful thing to do. I respond so well when people do that to me, you know? Like when I finally stopped playing the violin at age 17, after eight horrible, tortuous years and my mother said, "You are a quitter and you have always been a quitter. You quit dance when you were five." I still remember her contemptuous tone of voice and everything and here I just did the same damn thing to my own kid at a much younger age, when she still actually listens to my opinion.

I feel awful.

So, by now she was crying real tears, which softened my heart (and which gives me a sick feeling in my stomach when I think about it.) So I tried to get to the bottom of why she didn't want to go. I sat next to her and hugged her and asked gently, "What is it about dance that you don't like? Can you tell me WHY you don't want to go?" She couldn't tell me.

I have my suspicions, though. First of all, it's hard to be a slacker in dance class --you pretty much HAVE to try. (In gymnastics, she would just skip her turn whenever possible --she'd just stay at the back of the line and keep moving on back--unless it was time for the high five and hugging and cheer portion of the day.) She really does have sort of a lazy streak about physical activity or homework or cleaning her room --she'd just rather read. I understand that. I'd rather read all day, too. But I feel like it's my job to teach her some work ethic and to keep her moving and experiencing new adventure first-hand, rather than only reading about it.

Second, all of the "popular girls" were in her dance classes over the years and she has never felt comfortable around them, even when she was clearly as talented, if not more, as the others. She has an odd sort of inferiority complex when it comes to those girls, even though they clearly LIKE her. Maybe it's because her mother implies that she's lazy and unenthusiastic and undisciplined, do ya think?

I can't believe I said such cutting things to my sensitive kid. There isn't any excuse for using words as weapons --and no one knows better than I do how words can wound the sensitive soul. I was mad at her--she was taking all Jane's joy out the anticipation of the dance camp and it just makes me crazy when she does that--it's like telling Jane, right before she tries a bite of some new food, "OOOOH, GROSSSSS!" (Jane is DYING to do dance--and of course, she marched in and made friends immediately and didn't even notice when I left.)

As a coda to all of this, on the way to the camp, Jane finally succumbed to Ana's terrible, energy-sucking mood and began to work up some tears over the fact that she was bitten by ants at Kindergarten Splash Day and I just... came unglued. "What a bunch of WHINERS! I'm SICK of all of this whining! I'm going to sign you up for a different camp EVERY SINGLE WEEK all summer just to get away from all of this WHINING!"

My girls burst into tears. Oh no, not the dreaded "different summer camp per week all summer" torture! I thought that had been outlawed by the Geneva Convention! Call Child Protective Services!

Here's the thing that haunts me, though, and which will stay with me all day until I pick the girls up and it becomes apparent that they've had a wonderful time:

As we were going to the car to leave, Ana asked sadly if she should take her pink blanket. I said, as gently as I could, "Sure, sweetie, if you want to. We can put it in your dance bag."

"No," said Ana. "I want to take it but I don't want to take it."

"I know, baby. I guess that's kind of what being nine is like."

Since she left it home, I wonder if she'd mind if I curl up with it a bit and have a good cry?


DK said…
"I guess that's kind of what being nine is like"....and also 30....