When You Realize Motherhood Isn’t An Opportunity To Live Vicariously



When I was a little girl, I dreamed of becoming a ballerina one day. Ballerinas were graceful, beautiful and precise. Something about that combination was alluring to my little girl heart.

There was just one problem. I’d never taken a day of ballet in my entire life. And I wasn’t about to anytime soon.

While I didn’t get to do ballet, I did do dance. Mom enrolled me in dance line. And for that, I’m grateful.

All my friends were in dance. We kicked and grooved to good old 80s tunes like “We Built This City,” “Splish Splash,” and “Uptown Girl.” We wore skirted royal blue leotards with a white stripe and matching gloves, because groovy tunes require groovy gear, you know!

My memories of dance were positive. In fact, I don’t have one negative memory from all my years of dance. Somewhere along the way, however, my participation in tennis, band and choir prohibited me from continuing with dance. But my secret desire and passion for dance never went away.

In high school, I loved school dances. I never understood why people wanted to leave early, and hated when dad set my curfew before dances were done. In college, I had no problem literally dancing the night away at fraternity parties, and took my fair share of Jazzercize classes. When I went to graduate school and became a wife and mom, I missed the dancing life because truth be told, it was nonexistent at that point. So when I joined a gym shortly after our second baby was born, I found a hip hop class and faithfully attended once a week for a couple years.

Eventually, reality set in. While in my heart of hearts, I still thought it would be amazing to be a ballerina…well…now I just fantasized about being a professional backup dancer for big name singers like Britney Spears and Ricky Martin, Katy Perry and Lady Gaga. Realistic, right? Because THAT was ever going to happen?!

So when our oldest daughter indicated interest in dance, I had no problem enrolling her promptly!

In preschool, she took dance all year. She was with all of her friends, and was perfectly happy. But from my perspective as a parent, I wasn’t so pleased with the professionalism and organization of the studio, nor were some of the other parents, so most, if not all of her friends left that studio.

DSC03136The summer before kindergarten, I moved her to a different studio that was much larger and more established. She started out loving it, but her enjoyment waned quickly. The simple fact was that NONE of her friends were at that studio, and since she’s a social butterfly, she needed connection with friends in order for it to be a positive experience. By Christmas, she was burned out and wanted to quit. It took all I had to let her drop dance after the Christmas recital (particularly since we’d already paid $150 for two spring recital costumes that were non-refundable) but I allowed it anyway, because it seemed silly to force a kindergartener to do something she didn’t enjoy all that much.


In first grade, she took the year off from dance. I have to admit, it was an unprecedented parenting moment to realize my daughter’s friends were continuing with dance at other studios while my daughter sat idle.

The summer before second grade, she connected with one of her neighbor friends who had started dance at another large studio nearby. Our schedules meshed, so we enrolled my daughter in the same class as her neighbor friend. They took dance together all year and this time around, she enjoyed it very much. I was convinced, yet again, it was all about the friendship factor for my daughter (this, something I TOTALLY didn’t understand as an introvert)! And did I mention I loved most everything about that studio?


This year, in third grade, our family schedule didn’t mesh with our neighbor’s schedule, so the girls weren’t able to enroll in class together. Still, I was able to convince her to go ahead and try it on her own since she had acclimated to the studio and had gotten to know other girls. Fortunately, a couple girls from her class last year were also in her class this year; I’m certain that made all the difference. But still, dance this year has been okay, fine. She hasn’t complained a ton, but she hasn’t loved her teacher either. While she’s improved at dancing by leaps and bounds, she hasn’t seemed totally overjoyed by it either. And the past couple of months, she’s talked about wanting to quit.


So I surrendered to reality, yet again. I wasn’t going to be a ballerina. I most certainly wasn’t going to be a professional back up dancer. And now, there was a great possibility I wasn’t even going to be a “professional” dance mom.


But just as I’d surrendered to the possibility of her quitting dance next year, just 10 days before the spring dance recital, she says she might want to switch dance studios next year. “AGAIN,” I say?! “REALLY?” Yep. She might want to go back to the studio she was at in kindergarten, because it turns out a few of her friends go there now, and she’d like to dance with them on the competitive line.

Alrighty then.

So I call the studio, the one we were at when she was in kindergarten, and ask about their programming for fourth grade girls. My daughter promises she’ll talk to her friends and get their parents’ phone numbers so we can see which preparatory camps they’re taking this summer.

And that night, I hear her in the shower. She’s dancing, repeating the names of dance steps “shuffle ball change, shuffle ball change, shuffle ball change.”

I smile to myself.

I wonder, maybe I’ve gone about this all wrong. Maybe for her it’s all about friends first, then dance. For me, it’s all about dance first, and if friends happen to show up on the radar, then fine.

And I realize, motherhood isn’t an opportunity to live vicariously. In fact, the blessing, the beauty of motherhood, is that you have the opportunity to help your child realize their hopes and dreams for their life (and every once in a while, their dreams might happen to coincide with your dreams).

So I sit in a place of peace and resolve, understanding it’s all about friends for my daughter. She’s a social butterfly. And while I don’t understand her extraordinary need to socialize in every thing at every moment, I do need to work within that frame of reference to help her flourish as an individual. Always. Yes, always.


The high school girls are dancing; they’re wild, free, in synch. As I pass by with toddler in tow, I linger by the window, peering in, just as I’ve done so many nights as I wait for my daughter’s dance practice to end. I hear the beat. I feel it down to my bones. The toddler toddles on and it takes every fiber of my being to pull myself away from that window. Because all I really want to do is step right in.

Let me dance. Let me be free. Let me get lost in the rhythm, in the beat. Let me live the life of a dancer.

But I move on, step away. Because now’s not the time. So I set another goal. One day, I’ll try on ballerina. One day, I’ll try on back up dancer. And I won’t be much good at it, but I’ll love it. I’ll absolutely love it.

Then, in heaven, when I’m hangin’ with all the writers and musicians (just like I told you I would), I’ll put on my real dancing shoes and join all the dancers, too. Then, yes then, I’ll be a professional. Wild, free, in synch with the One who creates all the rhythms, all the beats. It will be awesome, everything I imagined and more.

And maybe, just maybe, you’ll find my daughter dancing right along with me.   


*This post is part of a month-long series titled Motherhood Unraveled. To read more from this series, click here and read to the bottom where all the posts are listed and linked!

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