I’m One Of Those Dance Moms Who Used To Disgust Me

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“Disgusting,” I thought with glee. “Now that is bad parenting.”

I used to watch a lot of documentaries, and by documentaries I mean reality TV, and by reality TV I mean the trashiest of the trash. My favorite was Toddlers and Tiaras, because come on. Bad choices pile up in that show like so many cars on an icy freeway, and if there’s one thing that will make me feel better about my life, it’s watching other people make terrible choices.

When I was pregnant with my oldest daughter, I devoured TV. I was hoping to spend my pregnancy devouring Big Macs and cheesecakes, but what they don’t tell you before you get pregnant is that a) suddenly your diet is so important and everybody is watching it for you, and b) there’s no room in your stomach for anything more than a spoonful of peanut butter. TV is infinitely easier to consume, especially pre-kids when there aren’t any “screen time recommendations” looming over you, and consume it I did. I compared my unformed spawn to the girls on the show, compared my untested parenting to the parents on the show. Damn, I looked good.

The little girls on this show are under constant pressure to be pretty, lady-like, and feminine — as if feminine is something a toddler should aspire to be. “Smile!” their mothers say, and “get it girl!” like that sentence means something. Get what? No seriously, what are they getting? A trophy? Doesn’t every kid get a trophy? I am pretty sure every kid gets a trophy. Makeup and spray tans and fake teeth rule the show, and, of course, every mother says “my daughter loves pageants! If she didn’t, we wouldn’t do it.” Riiiiight.

I imagined my daughter bucking gender norms, playing with worms and saying things like “high heels are really damaging to your spine. Makeup is a tool of the patriarchy.” She would tell the other little girls in preschool, “Let’s pretend we are princesses, but I don’t need to be rescued, I’ll rescue myself.”

Oh, how the mighty have fallen.

Sofia was a grumpy little thing, and one of the early pictures I have of her is when she was breastfeeding at a couple weeks old and flipping off the camera. “Fuck you, world!” I imagined her saying about all sorts of injustices. I was totally prepared to buy her combat boots and listen as she railed against stereotypes. I was not prepared for the kid that I got instead.

I bought her a tutu when she was about nine months old, to be ironic. I took lots of ironic pictures of her and laughed and laughed.

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