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May 01, 2010

Am I a Bad Mom if I Let Her Quit?

Ballet shoes 2 Since she was three, my daughter has been enamored of the dance. Ballet tutus were her go-to clothing choices and High School Musical opened up whole new worlds of bursting into song while cutting a rug or two.

But those days are gone. This year Kat's dance groups were deemed old enough to compete in the various local dance festivals and dance class narrowed to endless rehearsals of the same routine. While Joffery ballerinas step up to the grind of breaking down the dance into its tiniest components, seven year old girls wilt with boredom. What was fun became torture, and the mirrored walls reflected tired eyes and grim expressions as Kat and her classmates tip-toed through the same dance week after week.

And then it came,

"Mom, I want to quit dance."

As I shared my dilemma with the other moms at dance while we waited, I was met with disapproval when I admitted that her dad and I were considering allowing Kat to take the rest of the year off. It's just another 5 weeks after the coming weekend's competition. 

There is no way Kat would be allowed to quit before competition. She's made a commitment to her friends and classmates that she must honor, but after that?

"I would never let my girls quit," one mother said. "They are in it until the end of the year."

"I don't know," another chimed in, "there's just end of the year performance left now, but it's so much money already invested in the costumes and lessons. It would be a shame not to get your money's worth."

But have we gotten our money's worth? I wonder.

The focus seems to be more on single routines than learning about technique or building skills in the classes. I question whether she has learned much at all. Sometimes it seems like she's learned more from her dvd's than her teacher.

And then there are the costumes. We've spent a considerable sum on two already, and I still haven't been told the damage for the third. In addition there are tights that have to be purchased because, of course, they are different colors than the ones she practices in. The costumes are single serving. She'll never wear them for another performance or even as practice wear. They end up in her dress up box though not for long as she has nearly out-grown the darn things between fittings in the fall and competitions in the spring.

The worst thing is the make up. I am lucky this year as no one requested false eyelashes, but the eye shadow changes from year to year and from one style of dance to another. I have a box of eye shadows, rouge and eyeliners that I won't use and certainly won't last the six years between now and when Kat becomes a teenager. 

Blessed with natural curl, I have it easier in the hair department, but only just. I listen to tales of girls sent to school in curlers and painful struggles to straighten them back into ballet buns.

My husband is sanguine about the whole thing. He's been through this before with my step-daughters. 

"She's been dancing for four years now, " he told me. "I think she's given it a fair shake."

I won't lie and say I won't be relieved to be shed of dance. I have never been comfortable with dollying her up like a showgirl or happy with the spur of the moment demands of her teachers, but I know that deep down this is a loss for her. It is something she will wish she could pick up again someday, and she will be too old. Perhaps that is part of growing up too.

My daughter wants to quit dancing, and I think I should let her.

Original post to 50-Something Moms Blog.

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