“Mom, I don’t want to do ballet anymore.” Those simple words hit me like a ton of bricks. In my mind I wanted to scream, “What?! Are you freaking serious? What about all of the money we spent on dance lessons, recital fees, and costumes? What about your dreams of one day becoming a Rockette?”
In all honesty, I had a feeling this day might come, but I had no idea it would come so soon. I wasn’t ready!
My daughter was everything I wasn’t. She was born with a body especially designed for an elite dancer. She stood head and shoulders above the other girls her age and had long, lean toned legs and arms. She was the poster child for what a typical ballerina would look like.
What my daughter didn’t know was how I always thought if I had the body and natural rhythm she had, then I would have really been able to live out my lifelong dream of performing on stage. I would really be able to shine as a star ballerina!
I could not believe she was going to throw it all away just because she suddenly lost interest. How selfish, I secretly thought. I wasn’t going to make a big deal of it because I thought she would come around. If I could just lay low, then she would see she was making a huge mistake giving up her bright future in ballet.
Then one day it hit me . . .
She’s not you.
What I finally realized was my daughter had so many other gifts and talents she wanted to explore, and ballet was getting in the way. Ballet was taking up every ounce of her time and energy.
Fast forward to this past year. On a long car drive my daughter and I were able to dig deeper into her decision to stop taking ballet. Dance had started out as a fun way to express herself, but dance had become a real confidence stealer for her. She no longer had the drive and passion to continue pursuing it.
She confided in me that she mostly always hated dance, but she knew how much it meant to me, so she kept doing it until she finally couldn’t fake it anymore.
Of course, in that instant I felt all the mom-guilt imaginable, but I was also really proud of the way she felt comfortable in expressing herself to me. It also made me secretly beam with pride knowing she is growing into a beautiful and confident young woman with her own voice and dreams all her own.
Here are four simple lessons I have put into practice with my daughter . . .
- Remember, it’s not about you.
This is the time for you to put your preferences aside. You might have dreams of watching your daughter follow in your footsteps and cheer on your local football team. Mama, let me break it to you. She may have zero desire for all of that. And that is ok. You have to let it go. Help her find something she loves doing and makes her feel good. Her interests could be polar opposite from yours, but in the end remember it is her life.
- Encourage your daughter to try new things.
I am a big believer in letting your kids try all kinds of activities. Gymnastics, softball, art class, ice hockey, chess club, karate, and anything else her little heart desires. Let her try ALL the things. Maybe something will stick and maybe nothing will. What will happen over time is she will get to see what she likes and what she doesn’t like. She will develop a sense of self and gain a whole lot of courage in the process by just mixing things up a bit.
- Make time to cultivate a healthy relationship with your daughter.
Your relationship with your daughter is way more important than the extracurricular activities she chooses to participate in. Be intentional on setting aside time where your daughter can be open and honest with you. Put your phone away and limit all of the other distractions that could interrupt your time together. We really can learn a lot from our daughters if only we are only willing to take the time to listen. Sometimes all they need is an invitation to talk and a listening ear.
- Always be her biggest fan!
Whatever your daughter wants to try her hand at, make sure you let her know you will always be proud of her – no matter what. As you encourage your daughter to pursue new interests, she may absolutely bomb something she tries. Applaud her bravery and courage. Remind her that failure is all part of the process. Tell her stories of you trying new things when you were her age – especially the times you failed. Whether it’s a win or a loss, let her know you will always be there to cheer her on at the end of the day!