Yesterday, my daughter attended her very first dance class. She looked absolutely adorable in her pink tutu and shiny black tap shoes. She literally vibrated with excitement as we waited for her teacher to call the class in. I was beaming at my little girl, growing up and attending lessons without her mom lumbering around behind her, like I tend to at zoo camp or riding lessons. At dance class, she would be shut in her own little room with her own little classmates and their sweet, little teacher.
I hadn’t realized that this would leave me in a crowded, little waiting room with ten other mothers while our daughters pre-tapped away in their room. Oh goodness… ten other moms. This shouldn’t make me apprehensive, but it did. I sat there in my business attire, because I didn’t have time to run home and change, feeling like the new girl in a middle school cafeteria. And then, it started.
“I don’t remember you guys from the summer session? Is this your first lesson?” The question came from a smiling, perfectly put-together mom next to me.
“Oh, yea. This is our first dance lesson.” I smiled, still pretty excited about the whole thing.
“Gotcha. They have a summer session too, just so you know. You don’t have to just do the school year. Are you guys doing the gymnastics class on Thursdays, too?” Apparently, there were a lot of options for my three-year-old that I was painfully unaware of.
“Nope. I thought we would just start with one class and see how she likes it.” In retrospect, this was not the correct answer.
“Oh. So is she your only one?” This came from another mom, who spent the majority of the time saying hi to every person who walked through the studio waiting room. Literally, she knew everyone.
“Yep. Just Brenna.” This is a touchy subject for me, but they couldn’t know that.
“Oh. That’s nice. You guys must have so much time together! I have 4. My oldest has been going here for 8 years now. It helps with her cheerleading so much.” I have to admit, I took gymnastics to help with my cheerleading. Its a valid point.
“So are you guys already in pre-school? How old is your little one?” This was the from the first last, who apparently is involved in absolutely everything.
“Brenna’s three. She’s starting pre-school this year, just two mornings a week.” I’m still not ready for my daughter to need a backpack, by the way.
“Oh, that’s nice. We considered something like that. But we really needed to go all week. Sarah just really neeeds a challenge. I feel like she’ll get bored with just two days.” I’m really not worried about boredom. Pre-schoolers never get bored, they have more energy than a set of AAs.
The question and answer session didn’t end for the whole class. I left feeling like I had failed an oral exam. Even though my daughter loved dance class and I enjoyed watching her get excited about something, I found myself dreading next week. Ya know what I didn’t walk away thinking? Man, those moms were impressive.
No matter how many extra-curricular’s they were involved in, no matter how many kids they managed to shuttle around every evening and no matter what type of prodigy their little ones would grow to be, it wasn’t impressive. It was pushy and boastful and smacked of effort. In 45 minutes, I never got asked what I did for a living. In fact, there wasn’t a single question about me as a person. There were a million questions about my daughter, most of which I didn’t seem to answer to their satisfaction.
My daughter is not a dog competing for best-in-show. She’s a wonderful, sweet and intelligent little girl who is just starting her first dance class and will be thrilled to attend pre-school two days a week. And my personal self-worth has absolutely nothing to do with how many children I have or what activities they’re signed up for. I’m proud of being a dedicated mother. I’m proud of my little girl. Neither of those things means that I have to compare us to every other family we meet. Having a super-active family does not make you a super-successful mother. It just makes you the reason that I’m bringing my laptop to the dance studio waiting room.