When we arrived at the ballet studio of our local YMCA this morning, my brave and spirited little princess morphed into a distraught wallflower for possibly the first time in her life. I’m not sure if it was the strange room filled with new people, the glass wall that separated the mommies from the children or the fact that every other little girl there had clearly been to ballet classes before (quite the feat considering this was a pre-ballet class for kids 3-4 years old!). Little BB seemed totally thrown by their confidence and wanted nothing to do with them. She clung to my legs and sobbed when I tried to lead her into the classroom and pleaded that she didn’t want to do ballet after all and maybe she should just have a snack instead.
She has never been this girl – in the face of new adventures, she tends to be fearless and though she’s never quite been a social butterfly, she’s always been friendly and self confident. Did she not sleep well? Was she sick? Was she really terrified of trying something new? Is this a sign of things to come? My mind raced with possible reasons for her meltdown as I tried to think of a solution and also tried not to cry as my heart broke for her. My own inner struggles growing up, trying unsuccessfully sometimes to fit in when finding myself again and again the New Girl ran through my mind and the Warrior Mother within me tried to send telepathic messages of strength and resilience to her.
I insisted that she had to stay for class and sit with the other girls unless she wanted to go home. I bribed her with the promise of a cookie afterwards if she tried. I’m not proud, sometimes you just have to do what works. For a few minutes she did sit there with the other girls, arms crossed with the surliest expression the Midwest has ever seen. But when class started, she absolutely refused to join in. The teacher tried to break the ice with an extended hand and a cheerful encouragement to join the fun, but BB scowled at her, and turned to me as if to say, “I’ll sit in this room, but you can’t make me participate.” A few minutes later, having seemingly had her fill, she got up and walked out of the classroom, giving me her best pout as she coaxed her way back into my arms.
After a few minutes of quietly talking to her, I finally found the apparent source of her angst – the shoes. Those damned shoes. All the girls had them except her and BB found herself filled with envy or perhaps just a sense of not fitting in because of her lack of footwear. Isn’t she too young for this, I wondered? I’m sure as she gets older, we’ll have our battles over owning the right jeans or what length of skirt is acceptable. But at three and a half years old, it surprises me how important fashion is to my daughter. Clearly this was the source of our problem though because when I told her firmly that I wouldn’t buy her ballet slippers unless she participated in class, she nodded calmly, found her inner confidence and marched timidly back into class.
I won’t say that suddenly she morphed into a ballet savant, she continued to be somewhat hesitant in her involvement, but slowly with each passing minute, she eased into it and by the end of class she was smiling and confident again. I rewarded her participation with a trip to the adorable ballet store at the nearby shopping center where a very kind salesperson helped her pick out her first pair of ballet slippers and a new tutu to wear as well. A lot of the other girls were rocking leotards and tights also, but I decided to be somewhat frugal and start with the basics that I knew would win over my little fashionista ballerina.
It’s been an emotional day for both of us, but we came out of it with new shoes, a cute skirt and a happy girl with high hopes for next week’s class. I am very proud of her for overcoming whatever fears she found herself faced with this morning and for giving it a shot.
Is there anything that new shoes can’t fix?
2 responses to “ballet lessons: on overcoming her fears & the power of shoe therapy”
Aww. Poor baby. My heart broke for the both of you in the beginning of this post. I’m glad she is feeling much better about ballet class now.
Aw, glad that in the end she participated – and got new shoes!