Tales of a Dance Mom: Supporting Your Kid When You’re Clueless

Let’s be real, here: no one has ever accused me of being graceful. Or of having rhythm.

True story: my university put on an annual music festival in which groups on campus competed in a sort of sing-off/dance-off type of show. One year, I decided that I wanted to participate. Not because I had suddenly developed any particular talent, but because it looked like fun and cute boys were included. I didn’t care if we won; I just wanted to play. Big mistake. My dance “partner” had his toes blackened and bruised, and I’m quite confident that he privately asked the choreographer for a new partner on more than one occasion. I literally don’t remember him ever speaking to me again after this fiasco.

Dance is not my thing.

My sweet daughter, though…my daughter is Ugandan-American. That child was BORN with rhythm. My daughter can feel music like I feel my fluffy pillow at night. And she loves, loves, loves to dance. Never one to squelch another person’s hopes and dreams, I first enrolled my daughter in dance classes when she was two years old. My attitude toward my daughter’s dancing has been largely the same as my attitude toward my college music festival-just have fun! Enjoy yourself! No pressure!

Here’s the thing, though. Competitive dance moms know one thing: spring is INSANE. There is at least one dance competition per month, if not more. And some of those other dance moms? They’re out for blood. These are the lifelong dancers, who can actually tell the difference between one performance and another. I do NOT fit in, with my whimsical, no pressure attitude and my ballet knowledge that largely came from Angelina Ballerina. I have never actually watched the show “Dance Moms” because just the thought stresses me out. Quite honestly, I find all of these dance shenanigans incredibly stressful.

In the competition dressing rooms, one can find moms with varying skill sets that help their daughters. There are moms who can sew, and are quite adept at fixing those ever-so-fragile costumes. There are moms good at doing hair, in whatever style has been deemed the appropriate style for that year. I lucked out this year; the style is a simple straight-hair ponytail. But it’s a toss-up from one year to the next. One year the required hair style was an upside-down french braid. Um, what?! Are some women born knowing how to do this, or did I miss a seminar somewhere?! Finally, there are moms who are quite talented at doing their daughters’ stage [read: cake-y and difficult to spread] makeup.

Again, I fit into none of these categories.

I can, however, deliver food and drinks like a boss. That just about sums up my usefulness.

All of this has led me to the following conclusion: 50% of parenting is feigning interest in something that you have no interest in. Trains, school buses, and garbage trucks fascinate my toddler son. Shockingly, I have no interest in any of these things. However, you’d better believe I will go out of my way to watch for the garbage truck on Thursday mornings. I won’t take an alternate route to avoid a train crossing. These things delight my son, and I love to watch his face light up.

The thing that nobody tells you about parenting is that you might have to continue feigning interest in things as your kids grow up. There’s a chance that you’re lucky enough to share your children’s deepest passions with them, but there’s also a chance that you won’t. And you’ll just have to fake it, because you so deeply love your child. You so deeply love to see them pursue their passions, whether it’s garbage trucks or a sport that you know nothing about.

So, mama, if you find yourself in a room full of women who look like they want to eat you for breakfast, know that there’s another mama in that room who is just like you. There is another mama in that room who has no idea what she’s doing, and doesn’t particularly care. She just wants to support her child and make sure that her kid knows that she’s always going to be there. She will always be there, and so will you. If you find her, don’t be skeptical-even in that room of women who may or may not want to murder you. Be kind. You might have just found a new friend.

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