Thursday, December 10, 2009

Dance Class Commitment Saga


For many of you who I have talked with or shared with on Facebook about Sophia's dance class, this will probably be the last thing you want to hear about...again. But I'm writing it anyway. Largely because I find that I still need to process it with words and partly because I think I have learned a couple of important things about Sophia through this process.

For those of you who don't already know what I'm talking about, Sophia has had a rough go of it with concern to dance class. Last week, she left after only five minutes of class, complaining that her "cough hurt." Miss Hallie brought her out really crying, which is way out of character (not crying in general, but skipping dance). Since she was just getting over that cold, I was willing to give her the benefit of the doubt. However, ever since that morning, each time dance has come up, she has cried and insisted she wouldn't go back.

This left me in quite the awkward position. On one hand, I really don't care if my 3-year-old goes to dance. I signed her up because it fits her and she enjoys it immensely. So if she's done, I'm fine with that. On the other hand, I can see a pattern developing. With every little class or activity she's been involved with, she has fun and likes to participate up until the last few times. Then she's done and never wants to hear or talk about it again. I don't like that pattern. It's a little too familiar. She comes by it naturally. It's one of the weaker sides of my personality. The advantage is that I love starting new things, and I'll try just about anything. The downside is obviously that I don't stick with too much once I get bored with it. This blog is about the longest I've done any sort of recreational activity. Pretty much everyone I know can attest to this fact. I don't really want that for Sophia. I realize that there's no fixing one's personality. But I do think that to acknowledge one's weaknesses, even starting young, could help a person to grow past it. Only one way to find out.

After much discussion with Sophia throughout the week - much to her chagrin - we went back to dance class. On a side note, she's very perceptive. Every time I tried to sneak in mention of dance class without bringing it up directly, she shut me down. Earlier in the week, we were talking about her friends. I listed all the usuals, then added Emma and Ella, who she knows through dance. She looked up at me and said, "They are NOT my friends because they go to dance." Denied. In Target one day, we walked past the leotards. I pointed out one that looked like her blue one and she said, "I don't want to look at those, Mommy, and you don't look either." Shut down again.

Back to class this morning. She went willingly enough, but this time I watched through the window to see if it happened again. Sure enough, they had just started the first song and she started to look really sad. Lip out, head down, still dancing but only with half heart. Hallie noticed too, and I saw her gently question Sophia. That made it worse. Then it continued in a steady decline until the next song when she finally broke down crying. At that point, Hallie decided to try the approach of pretending it wasn't happening. By the end of the song, Sophia was fine. Never to fuss again. Happy as a dancing clam. That was it.

The more I thought about, the clearer this whole thing became to me. I had forgotten how I used to feel as a child. Just like Sophia, I was pretty outgoing and friendly. Shy was never really a descriptor, but I also remember that randomly I would feel a strong social anxiety and feel a lot like Sophia looked at the beginning. If someone mentioned it, I became embarrassed and began to cry. If they tried to help me feel better, I cried harder. If I was left alone, I could typically work through it, and it would pass. Is that typical? I never asked anyone about that before. I don't know why I didn't think of this for Sophia. I guess I thought she was too young to feel social pressure. Or I hoped that it wouldn't be an issue for her. But I really think this may play a big part in what I just saw this morning.

My hope is that since I am aware of it, I can help Sophia to be aware of it. Then we can figure out how to work through it together or help her to work through it herself in the moment. I have noticed that Sophia is completely kid now. It makes sense that the joys of independence come with the pains of living among and wanting the approval of other people. I just hope I can help her navigate all the highs and lows that await her.

I have no idea if any of my conclusions are correct. It seems like I'm finding that either Sophia is becoming more like me, but that seems awfully convenient. Would anyone who knows us well like to confirm or deny or shrug your shoulders on this one? I realize that I will have to be careful not to try to "fix" in her what I don't like in myself. Ugh. Parenting is hard.

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  1. The bottom line is you showed grace to a child, gave her the opportunity for enjoyment, stepped back - and it worked out. Yeah!

    As for angst that accompanied it, I'm no professional, and you know some professionals you could ask if you really wanted to, but since you asked me... I see 3 distinct things going on here:

    1) a 3-year old acting like a 3-year old (just like Aaron did with soccer and William did with swimming lessons and countless children have done with piano lessons).

    2) a parent who is disappointed that her love and acceptance are not sufficient to create a perfectly self-assured human being within a few years.

    3) a woman who had some of her own childhood feelings triggered. Sophia is not you, so if she is allowed to be herself she will not become like you. You will recognize similarities, and as a parent you may want to interpret those similarities as "see, we are the same!" I think we do that because we hope that with our help she'll be "like me, but better." If all that's true, it's seems most likely that what you're feeling is about you and your own experiences, not Sophia and hers.

    So, if we were sitting in our chairs in a circle, the group facilitator might ask, "tell me about one of those times when you felt anxious, someone mentioned it, and it only made it worse..." But we're not and this is a public forum so maybe later...

  2. I hear that. I am sure you're right about the majority of feelings being about me. Wouldn't it be nice to be able to recognize and correct every unpleasant experience that we had so our kids can avoid them? That's all I want. That and to create a perfectly self-assured 3-year-old person. You were right about that too. All right. I can take the pressure down a notch then. Thanks DVD.

  3. Well, I was gonna say something smart and insightful. It was not only gonna show how much I know you, but how much I just plain KNOW in general. But, it appears you and DVD have it all wrapped up. I will save my smartness for a later comment.

  4. I have been reading (and feeling) along your journey through this saga via facebook and now here, and as much as I have tried to articulate my feelings in to words or transition into thinking through the situation logically - they seem to remain feelings for now. I am touched by the outpouring of love you have shown Sophia through this process. She is lucky to have you watching over her and guiding her through it.