I’m a believer in mastery and I’m a believer in nurturing natural talents and interests. I believe that kiddos grow into well-rounded humans when they’re challenged and humbled. I believe in losses and I’m on the fence with participation trophies (as great as they are, they open another can of worms down the road.)
My kids dabble in a number of activities but my eldest has taken an extreme liking towards competitive dance and I scrounge and save every penny to ensure she is able to maintain this passion. She has been in dance since the tender age of 2 and it was always pure joy and love. There still hasn’t been a day that she has dug her heels into the ground when it’s time to go for class. It’s been her outlet, it has boosted her confidence and it has been a key element in her growth into the lovely human she is today.
Her father left when she was in her first year of pre-competitive dance and I remember having a discussion with one of her teachers, and a co-worker of mine as I’m also a dance teacher, that she was going through a “silent streak,” as in she wasn’t really talking at all and there was absolutely a sadness around her. The dance studio was the place where she came alive and even at a younger age, she used her body’s ability and the choreography to exude joy and confidence. When she was on stage, she had the natural smile and I will never forget her receiving the “firecracker” award with her first solo. I know, I know… I sound like a stage mom here BUT when your children are fighting through the trauma of an absent parent, you realize how important it is to have a safe place for them. I’m also extremely aware that we are a part of a wonderful studio whom believes in the importance of character over anything else AND it is a family run business and I can honestly say it feels like our second home (and realistically, our first home when we’re in the midst of choreography and competition season.) My daughter isn’t the top of her level and she works hard at her weaknesses. She is surrounded by teachers who are brilliant in their Art and know how to properly execute and teach her how to improve, without belittlement or cruelty. She cheers her friends on and when it comes to placement with solos and other groups, there is no jealousy but the opposite- they are there to cheer their friends on and celebrate their own small victories. They support each other and I believe that is a value that comes from within. We’ve been able to travel and she has been given unreal opportunities not only to learn from the Top of the Top- but she was given a chance to perform in front of Mia Michaels and landed a part in a current Netflix movie. Like, let’s talk about an immediate confidence boost. Our motto is simply to “never turn an opportunity down.” And this was a big deal for my girl. My eldest was the one who was exposed to the most of her father’s addictions, struggles and sometimes our fights. She would go through moments of not wanting to go to school or see friends, but would never NOT want to go to the studio.
There’s also been a huge improvement in her academics because she has learned how to manage her time efficiently. She will train at the studio sometimes upwards of 20 hours a week and understand the importance of her school work. We do have late nights and there are tears from exhaustion, but it all gets done and it gets done WELL because she has learned how to put in her best efforts because she knows what it’s like to be rewarded by her best efforts. And as a mother of 5, this is a valuable lesson that I may not have been able to teach her.
I had gone back to University a few years ago and the Child Development Psych course was easily one of my favourites. It reinstated how important it is to involve children in extra- curricular activities and how building these connections is fully enriching their brains, making them an overall better and higher functioning human. And I realize how blessed I am to be able to have the opportunity to make a living and put my kids into their activity of choice. My boys are not sure where their passion lays quite yet, but we are trying hard to figure it out! The twins have also begun their dance journey, but they’re just 5 so we’re absolutely still in the trial process. I haven’t entered a “rep” sports league yet, but I do believe I would feel the same. These kids are learning so much and I am a huge lover in seeing education that goes beyond the classroom. It may be exhausting and we’ve all seen the movies where the star athlete gives up their prime spot for the underdog and they go on to another passion… so I believe as a parent, it’s our job to listen to these kids and it’s our job to nurture their interests and abilities. What I love the most about competitive dance (or anything) is that they truly train so hard to be their best and when they don’t come out on top, it drives them to improve and do better. They are constantly looking for ways to master another skill or work on an area that needs improvement so they see a potentially different result. And I’m not saying that this is the way the world should be, but I’m gunning for a better future and a better world for my babies. I choose to put them in an environment that encourages growth and sees them all as individuals with different strengths and weaknesses.
A lot of people ask me why I put so much energy and money into the things I do for my kids and this is why. I chose to be a parent and my kids come first and my job is to enrich their lives and give them the tools to grow into a better human. I do it for their future selves but I also do it because I recognize the love and joy they get from it. Irreplaceable.