Hindsight Parenting: Beauty in Being Present, Not Perfection.
The countdown to my daughter Ila’s first dance class was a flurry of activity. There was of course the research it took to find the exact right creative movement class. Next we had to find the perfect ballet slippers, the tights, and the leotard. These coveted clothing items sat on the shelf in her room and she’d pat them each night before bed. Each afternoon, even though she knew the answer, she’d ask slyly if she could put on her leotard and slippers, but they remained on the shelf. I will admit that this day…a day of dancing…(DANCING!) was providing me with a giddiness that I hadn’t felt in a long while. I mean, I enjoyed baseball, football, basketball and track with my boys, but DANCING; THIS was in MY wheel house. And so perhaps my need for everything to be “perfect” was what caused me to grumble on the eve of her premiere that I had forgotten to get a cute little ballet skirt to go over those leotards and tights.
On the day of Ila’s first class I rushed home from work to put her in her “gear” so to speak and whisk her off to the studio. When I arrived home, her father surprised (both she and I) with a pink frilly ballet skirt that HE had purchased for her to wear saying, “My daughter needs to look like a perfect ballerina on her first day.” (Yes, you read that correctly. I, Logan Fisher, actually had an utterance heard and understood by a family member. Go ahead…write it on your calendar. I’ll wait until you get back…). As I slipped the hot pink skirt over her light pink leotard and tights she did look absolutely perfect.
Perfect…I have probably written that word at least four times in this particular column, and Hindsight has taught me that “perfection” was a very large part of mothering my two sons. As I mentioned in July 3rd’s column, growing up it became apparent VERY quickly that being first, best and the brightest was what made for happy parents, so I unknowingly brought that same attitude with me when it came to parenting. Looking back the boys activities were seen only as opportunities to shine and show off their athletic prowess, and if they weren’t the best or the brightest, I would vocally complain about the coach or the call or the equipment. Each batting moment, each football passed, each hoop attempt was a chance for perfection. And although a very few times perfection WOULD happen; a grand slam over the fence with a brand new Louisville Slugger bat, a first place ribbon in the school wide race, but more than often, as it is in life of course, perfection was the FARTHEST thing from what took place. Unfortunately, Hindsight reminds me of how many times I let the precious present slip by not living in the moment and instead waiting and watching for the “perfect” moment.
When Ila and I arrived at dance, I tried to quell that familiar feeling that rose in my chest; the anticipation of perfection, the fantasy of Ila pirouetting and rondele-ing circles around the other dancers in class. But it wasn’t just Hindsight that was tampering down pensive perfection, it was also of course the experiences we have had over the last few years with Ila’s movement disorder. I wasn’t sure what to expect from my darling daughter. I was actually worried that she wouldn’t be able to do the things that the other girls were doing, and WORSE realize that she wasn’t able to. So there I was two extremes; the mom who lives for those perfect moments and the mom who had watched her daughter experience many movement falters and meet them head on with a feisty fight. Which mom would win out? Only time would tell.
Dance class for Ila started slow. Even though it was an animal theme day (animals are Ila’s favorite), she was teary leaving my side and very reluctant to join the other dancers. Immediately the mother who had been experiencing Ila’s neurological movement problems right along with her wanted to step in and help her do the steps, but Hindsight reminded me that “helping her do the steps” would be the perfection mom as well. And so, I backed off, literally. At first Ila wanted me standing right next to her, but slowly, ever so slowly I began walking backwards toward back of the studio.
I watched as Ila slowly warmed to the process; Reaching her hand over her head prancing like a giraffe; Throwing her arms over her head ballerina style and tippy-toeing through a maze of stuffed animals. And then it happened. The dancers had to sit and one by one, or two by two while the dance instructor called the dancers up to the mirror. They were given a scarf and could imitate any animal they wanted. The moms in me battled. The worrier worried. The perfectionist hoped. But in the end…it didn’t matter. Hindsight didn’t have to whisper in my ear. The fretter put away her worry rocks. They weren’t needed. Why? Because my daughter’s incredible smile erased any reservations or fantasies. When it was her turn, that girl, that spit fire of a little human danced her socks off mimicking a lyric lovin’ leap frog. Even throwing in a stupendous spin towards the end, and OH how happy she was. And it was that moment that I realized the beauty in being present. Just watching the sheer elation that oozed from my little ballerina, I knew I was the luckiest mom alive. The luckiest because I knew something that perhaps some of those young moms hadn’t figured out yet. It isn’t so much the talented or perfect moment that is, but the happiness that your children experiences that is most important.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Logan has lived in Glens Falls, NY all her life. By day, she is an educator with 20 years experience, a mom to Aidan and Gannan, her two teenage boys, a new mommy to a beautiful daughter, Ila, and wife to the love of her life, Jeffrey. By night, weekends and any spare time she can find, Logan writes. She loves memoir and also adores writing essays about the challenges of parenthood. This year she started a parenting blog called A Muddled Mother, an honest place where mothers aren’t afraid to speak of the complications and difficulties that we all inevitably experience. Logan has been published in various children’s and parenting magazines including Today’s Motherhood, Eye on Education, Faces, and Appleseed. Logan’s previous column for Hilltown Families, Snakes and Snails: Teenage Boys Tales ran bi-monthly from June 2010-Feb. 2011, sharing stories of her first time around as a parent of two teenage boys. — Check out Hindsight Parenting: Raising Kids the Second Time Around every first and third Tuesday of the month.
[Photo credit: (ccl) Russ Morris]