As I sit at my desk preparing to write this final installment of my controversial three-part series “Evolution of a Dance Mom: An Exposé,” [Pulitzer, take note!] I can’t help but notice how my journey parallels that of someone travelling through the five stages of grief.
After my daughter’s first-ever dance competition in January, I wrote of nothing but positives … the supportive and professional atmosphere, the fair and clearly-defined judging guidelines, and the beauty and grace of all the young performers. Dance was the perfect creative and empowering outlet for girls everywhere. Yay dance! Looking back now, I can clearly see I was floating in the shock and denial phase, subconsciously unable and unwilling to look below the glitter lipstick and faux lashes to the crazy that quietly fermented beneath.
By her third competition, however, I had moved on to anger. I couldn’t figure out how awards were bestowed, and for that matter, how age groups and skill levels were defined. I’d had it up to her tiara with obnoxious mothers screeching during performances, “WORK IT, KAYLA!” and “YEAH, JASMINE! OWN IT!” And I was done with the eight hours of wait time for three minutes of jazz. On a Saturday. And again on Sunday. Dance is outrageously expensive and most moms are all clearly living vicariously through their tiny tappers; why hadn’t anyone warned me? This wasn’t fair! Where’d my life go? Damn it!
But we were committed, and I was forced to stay the course. I failed miserably at the bargaining stage (“If you don’t sign up next year, I’ll buy you a pony!”) and muddled through a few weeks of depression (“I’m sorry my tears ruined your bun, honey . . . I’m just so sad to be missing the family reunion.”). Those were the darkest of days.
As the season finished this past week at Nationals, however, I’m proud to say I finally reached the last phase, that of acceptance. My daughter has found her passion, and when I see her light up with pure joy as she leaps across those stages, I know that I must suppress my gut instinct to grab her and run as fast as I can to the nearest rec soccer field. I must do whatever is in my power as a parent to put her dreams ahead of my frustrations. I have accepted the cost, the time commitment, even the requisite sequenced booty shorts. I know to bring a good book, a pair of quality ear plugs, and to simply enjoy the endless opportunities to ruthlessly judge other women and their children. I accept my fate.
My name is Danielle. I am a dance mom. Peace out.