All I could think was, I’m not ready for this….
It’s amazing how quickly that peer pressure and “mean girl” behavior kicks in with little girls. The oldest of six sisters, I’ve had plenty of experience with that growing up and watching my younger sisters’ struggles. But experiencing it as a mother is a whole new ball game.
Two weeks ago, we enrolled our sweet little girl in her very first dance class. We gave her the choice between dance or gymnastic lessons, and she chose dance while “practicing” her moves in the living room. So, I found a studio nearby through a friend’s recommendation and enrolled her in a weekly preschool ballet and tap class on Tuesday mornings. She was beyond excited for her first class, eagerly showing off the second-hand tap shoes that I found for $5.50 (big Mommy win), the leotard and tights from Wal-mart, and her $10 ballet shoes through Amazon (we LOVE our Prime membership). In fact, as she came out for a bathroom break she looked at me with shiny eyes and said, “Mommy, this is so much fun!” And then it happened…The teacher had given each girl these long scarves to wear in their hair. Not wanting Anne’s to drag in the toilet, I took it off only to hear, “Mommy, I need that. All of the other girls are wearing them.”
Then bad went from worse the following Wednesday. An hour is a very long time for a three-year-old, especially when it is only her second class without mommy ever and she is new to the class. So as the little girls transitioned into the tap portion of the lesson (which is the last 15 minutes or so), my daughter had pretty much given up all pretense of following along with the class. Her little self was too tired and could no longer stay focused on what the teacher was doing. Instead, she was looking in the mirror, twirling around, and doing whatever popped into her little mind.
And then, as I watched from the window outside, it happened. While the teacher was changing music an older girl grabbed my oblivious child and yanked her into line with the rest of the class. I have no idea what was verbally exchanged between the two girls, but my mamma’s heart tightened. Everything in the girl’s body language suggested that the older girl was not saying something kind, and I watched helplessly as that stunned, hurt expression crept into my child’s face.
Later, after class I asked Anne about the exchange, trying to draw out exactly what had happened. But all she could communicate was that the girl “wasn’t being nice” and had pushed her. I’m sure the older girl was frustrated with Anne for completely disregarding directions, but my heart ached as I saw before me the countless other slights and “mean girl” incidents my daughter would endure in her life. I felt overwhelmed with the feeling of complete un-readiness, desiring to shield my child from all future hurt and disappointment.
I read once from a mother grieving over the loss of her 19-month-old son that motherhood is a constant union of celebration and loss. We rejoice over each new milestone with them, only to lose another part of their babyhood. We are constantly trying to teach them to be independent, losing by necessity some of their dependence on us. It’s a constant dance of giving and takes as we help our children blossom to adulthood. A constant joy, yet simultaneously a sorrow. I felt this more than ever when we miscarried our little Lillian last month. I was happy knowing that she was in a much better place, yet horribly sad that she was no longer with me. I imagine the Blessed Mother must have felt this way often as she delighted in every part of Jesus’ boyhood, simultaneously knowing each day, each hour, each second brought him closer to Calvary.
It’s the beauty of motherhood, while also being part of the cross as we learn to abandon not only our own lives but our beloved children to the Father’s will. I’ve watched this with my own mother, who has often cried tears with me or has suffered another sleepless night, anxious for one of her seven children. I see it in my maternal grandmother who is always there to help and to compassionately enter into the struggles and trials of her children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren’s lives.
And now I see it in myself with that first taste in dance class of all places. As much as I might long to, I know that I can’t shield my children from the hurts and disappointments that will beset them in life. There will be catty girls who will exclude or make fun of them; teams they won’t get into; applications that won’t be accepted. I know too from my own experience how important these setbacks and experiences can be, teaching them to overcome adversity and to be more compassionate toward others. But even still, if there was another way–a way I could spare them every hurt I gladly would.
But ready or not here it is, so all I can do is pray and try my hardest to make each experience a teachable moment, working to ensure that my child is never the “mean girl” and helping her through just as my own mother did for me.