Dear Dance Parents,
You get a bad rap. You’ve been stereotyped and mocked, and whispered about behind your backs. Reality shows aren’t helping because let’s face it, when you google “crazy dance mom”, the results are pretty terrilarious. (That’s terrifying and hilarious, which totally fits, don’t you think?)
I admit that I wondered exactly why you’d ever want to do what you do for your kids. I’ve questioned the whole competitive dance world more than once. More than a dozen times.
You invest exorbitant amounts of time and money into an activity that, chances are, won’t be in your child’s life when they’re adults. Your time is completely monopolized by this world of glitter, dance beats and stage makeup.
And can we talk about those costumes? Your little girls are wearing items that come from the “Sexy But Really Shouldn’t Be” section at Party City, with bright red lips, thrusting hips and giving the audience a come-hither glance and a pout — I’ve been judging you, I admit it. And it hasn’t always been kindly.
This year, our son wanted to join a “real” dance school and continue learning hip hop that he’d started with a community program last year. On the recommendation of a lot of friends, we signed him up and he’s been attending classes once a week for about nine months now. We spent less than $50 a month on his lessons, and I complained when recital time came around and we had to fork out $100 for a costume for him. I complained about the cost to view his recital ($17/ticket). I complained that there were five shows over the weekend, meaning our time (about 2 hours for each show) would be chewed up by his one dance on stage at each production. (Meanwhile, many of our friends would spend more than five hours at each of these five shows with their various kids.)
Recital weekend came and I was thrown into the crazy chaos that is the backstage world at events like this. It’s a flurry of tulle and sequins, fake lashes and tight hair buns. Our son, of course, needed only to slip into ripped jeans, a t-shirt and a cape — boys aren’t required to wear stage makeup or revealing costumes, hooray! Our friends had to brave the hectic change-rooms and manage overtired kids frantically changing from one costume to another. . .
But you know what I saw? I watched as smiling parents rushed their kids into one costume, then another, and hugged them as they ran off stage, and there was nothing but love there.
When I sat in the audience, I heard the other kids from the dance school cheering on their friends. I heard parents cheering for their own children, and their friends’ kids. When my son came off stage, it was to praise from all the other parents, telling him he’d done a great job, too.
I’ve rarely seen such support in any sport, ever.
Sure, the kids are told to dance with a smile, but for the most part, those smiles are genuine. Those kids light up on stage, and the fact that parents are able to give them this gift is truly heartwarming. There’s a big difference between the light in child’s eyes when they’re up there for themselves, versus living out a parent’s dream. And what I saw at that recital was the true love of dance.
I saw the parents get up and dance on stage for their kids, and saw how proud the kids were. I watched parents hug each other, congratulating them on their kids’ performances, and I’m watching the photos and pride pour over my Facebook timeline after the fact. It’s beautiful, it really is.
Our son’s always been shy, and leading up to the recital, he wasn’t sure he’d be able to get on stage and dance. Unlike a lot of the kids in his class, at six years old, this was his first stage experience. When he stepped onto that stage and saw us sitting in the audience, his whole face lit up and he danced his heart out. When he rushed off the stage, he couldn’t wait for the next show.
Dance parents, I was wrong.
I get it now. I get why you do what you do.
There’s nothing quite as fulfilling as seeing your child proud of themselves, and on fire with joy. There is nothing like knowing they’re doing something out of the pure love of the thing. Whether that love comes from dance, hockey, lacrosse, riding, art, drama, or anything else, it’s an absolute joy to witness.
So sure, the crazy parents exist in any sport (especially competitive ones), but they’re far outnumbered by the ones who, like me, are just totally overwhelmed with the love of watching our kids shine.
(But seriously, can we do something about the inappropriate posturing, costumes and makeup for the girls?)