Thursday, October 2, 2008

Turning Point

"Life has meaning only in the struggle. Triumph or defeat is in the hands of the Gods. So let us celebrate the struggle!" Swahili Warrior Song

My daughter decided to switch from ballet to tap/jazz dance class this year. "Ballet is boring" was her anthem all last year. She started class this year with a group of girls she did not know who all have more tap/jazz experience than she has. She quickly found that instead of just needing to know a few tap steps, she was expected to know an Irish, Double Irish, Buffalo, Double Buffalo, Cramp Roll, Maxie Ford and Maxie Ford Break. To make it even more difficult, she didn't have tap shoes for the first few classes (it seems that all the factories in China shut down during the Olympics causing all shoe orders to be backordered).

When I picked her up last week, I saw her floundering in class. She walked out clutching a list of the steps and counts that she needed to learn for the next class. Seven new steps in seven days without being able to perform them in tap shoes. As I was discussing the steps with the dance teacher (hey, I took tap class 31 years ago!), Kate waited in the hallway. When I came out of the studio, I found her crying. It seems that another girl in the class was telling the other students that Kate "couldn't dance and looked like she didn't want to dance." It was the final straw for Kate. She soon began pleading for a different class or to drop dance altogether. She was so hurt and overwhelmed and all she could do was cry.

When we got home, I sat her down and suggested that, instead of quitting, she prove the other girl wrong. She thought it over that night. The next day she woke up and said, "I'm ready to learn these steps." Game on.

Every morning and night, one step at a time, we learned every single one of those seven complicated steps. I knew just enough of basic tap dancing to be of some help to her. She worked very hard. And when we were confused by a step, we would Google it on the computer and find videos to help us.

Finally, this morning she told me she had it down. She performed every step flawlessly. And when we went to class tonight, we were able to pick up her new tap shoes. She walked into class, and I could see her shaking a bit. One other little girl just sat out of tap class and cried. She also found it very hard, and she wasn't able to gather the courage to try it anymore.

Kate made it through the tap drills, and when it came her turn to perform as the teacher counted, she nailed it. Absolutely nailed it. And with each step performed, she added a little more smile and arm movement. By the time the last step came along, she was working a full-blown flair. That's my girl.

By the end of class, she was doing traveling double buffalos and double Irish steps in a circle. When Kate was very small she once told me that a memory was a picture that you took with your heart. As I stood outside the class window watching her, my heart took a picture of this moment. True joy.

And that other girl from class . . . she didn't have very much to say tonight. And I survived the stress of not being able to rip all the hair out of her snotty little head for being such a jerk to my daughter. Taking the high road sucks. Sometimes setting a good example is downright painful for me. When Kate and I discussed that girl's comments, I would say through gritted teeth, "That girl needs to worry about herself."

But now, I'm almost grateful for the experience. Kate has learned that she's tougher than she thought; that practice makes perfect; and to believe in herself and her ability. She's such an incredible kid.

"Our greatest glory is not in never falling but in rising every time we fall." Confucius


  1. GO KATIE !!!!!!!!! Loved the picture.

  2. That's my GRANDdaughter! You, go, girl! Cute smile -- you've gotten the best from both your mom and dad!

    Mother H

  3. I am verklempt! Too much emotion for a Friday! : ) I am so proud of you and Kate. The vision of the two of you watching videos online to learn the steps is just too much.

  4. Hi Aunt J -- I am so in love with your blog. I have a few of them and can't wait to read more. I love that your stories are very specific (a particular person or time and experience) yet also very universal.

    Rohan is sitting next me right now all excited that he has a cousin Katie. He keeps saying, "Katie is MY cousin and not yours" and keeps asking me to go back to this photo. He is just tickled with the idea of having a cool cousin Kate. I guess I am not the only one eager to meet your kids!

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