The generation U.S News and World Report called children of neglect must now worry that they are raising a generation of self-centered kids.
In 1971, while my mother washed clothes at a laundry mat in Southern California, my sister and I slipped into the ballet studio next door. This brief visit gave rise to a journey, a dream really, that one day I would wear a little pink tutu.
Let’s just say that wasn’t going to happen.
I have scars – real ones, actually – that prove far worse things (bunionectomy) than whatever wound was created in me by the absence of dance lessons. Still, they tell us — the byproduct of Gen X childhood disappointment is Gen-X child-centered (over) parenting.
Still, one day,*I* would have a little girl and she would never, ever be able to imagine what it would be like to want something so much and never have it. Like all those little girls who looked like little French Madelines wearing black leotards and pink slippers, *my* little girl would have a tightly combed ballet bun. She would carry her ballet bag to school, and she would even complain about having to go to these classes. This would be proof of authenticity over mere parade.
And, so it came to pass, that at the tender age of two, my sweet J. began ballet, and she proceeded to take lessons over the next eight years. One time someone asked me what I was trying to prove. It cut me, but I had no answer. It always kind of haunted me.
So, time rocked on and every month, I wrote out the check, and every year we bought a bigger leotard and bigger pink slippers. The cost was sometimes a sacrifice, sometimes not. We bought books about ballet as she counted the years until she could start pointe (that is when she wasn’t complaining about having to go to class). When new things captivated her, we tried them – like gymnastics, ice skating, soccer, baseball, guitar, piano, art. But, we never stopped doing ballet, mostly because I insisted she continues with her lessons. My insistence was guided by my fear that she would arrive at 15, and look back with regret that she quit too soon. Or worse, she would blame me for never getting to dance.
Through the years, she complained often about having to go to class, but most days, she’d come home from her lessons and dance through the kitchen showing us what she had learned. “Ms. Victoria says I have a perfect fifth position,” she’d gleam lesson after lesson, year after year.
And, it was true. Her fifth position was brilliant. I’m going to miss it. This fall, I will not be buying a new leotard or slippers. One uneventful June morning this summer, she complained about ballet for the last time. I surrendered.
There are two kinds of little girls in the world: those who dream of dancing and those who get to dance. J. was in the second group. I figure that’s what I had to prove.