By Genevieve A. Suzuki
A couple of years ago one of my guiltiest pleasures was watching the Lifetime show “Dance Moms.” That series had it all: talented kids, an egomaniacal teacher and, best of all, crazy moms.
Every week I would watch the instructor manipulate and torment the young dancers while their mothers peered at them through a window in a room overlooking the studio. And every week my husband would shake his head, not at the onscreen antics, but at his wife watching it all.
“Well, it’s just such a train wreck. I just can’t understand why these kids’ moms take them to this school to get berated on a regular basis,” I said. “I would never do that to my daughter. If she wanted to quit, she could!”
Easy to say, harder to do.
When I was young, my mom put me in ballet. I loved to dance. It was all at once soothing and exhilarating. When I made it to toe shoes, nothing could stop me.
OK, nothing except cost. I was given a choice between ballet and music lessons. Although I don’t regret choosing band over dance – I would never have attended college on a dance scholarship – I always missed ballet. Someday, I vowed, my daughter would get the chance to dance.
And so she did. When Quinn turned 4, we placed her in a great ballet school. As we walked into Discount Dance Supply on Baltimore Drive, I felt the same excitement I did as a kid. “Look at these adorable leotards! And these tights! And look, Quinn, check out these tiny ballet shoes!”
Looking back on it, Quinn was really quite patient with her mother, who was already showing signs of Crazy Dance Mom Syndrome. She smiled, she attended weekly classes, and she even performed in the “Nutcracker” last year.
But a few weeks ago her patience ran out.
One bright Thursday morning Quinn sat straight up in bed and asked me, “Do we have ballet today?”
“No, silly, it’s Thursday. Ballet is on Saturday,” I said, thinking she had been dreaming.
“Noooooo,” she whined.
Wait. What was this? Who was this? Was this my child?
“Quinn, you had enough of a summer break. It’s time to return to ballet.”
She proceeded to make a weird “huh-uh-huh-uh-huh” sound, not unlike the sound she makes when it’s time for flu shots.
Holy cow, I was gobsmacked. I realized then that my daughter didn’t like dancing ballet.
“How long have you felt like this?” I asked.
“Uh, well, I liked it when I was young,” said my 7-year-old. “But I guess it’s been a few months now. Maybe since January. Are you upset?”
I’m not gonna lie. This was hard for me to hear. Quickly my brain started to go through several scenarios: Do I force her to continue to dance, praying she eventually likes it? Do I let her quit and couch surf on Saturday mornings?
In the end I fell back on parental instinct. I gave her a hug and reassured her that she didn’t need to dance ballet to make me happy. I also thanked her for sticking it out as long as she did.
So I was proud that I didn’t succumb to the Crazy Dance Mom Syndrome and force Quinn to attend ballet class on Saturday mornings. While I may not have a future prima ballerina, I do have a happy child, which is a more important goal than realizing an old dream through my daughter, who is, thankfully, her own person.
—Genevieve A. Suzuki is a La Mesa resident who practices family law. Visit her website at sdlawyersuzuki.com.