You know, we had Lilliana when we were so young. We always wondered if we’d be able to give her what other parents could give their children. We felt like we’d be swimming up stream while all the other parents were in a motor boat. When Jordan told me he researched dance studios and signed her up for her first ballet class we both couldn’t help but cry. We showed up to her classes and we still couldn’t shake the joy that we had giving her this opportunity.
Lilliana had her first dance recital this weekend. She put on her brand new tights, grandma painted her nails to match her dress, and I put her hair in the most perfect ballerina bun. She did great at rehearsal and couldn’t wait to be on stage with her friends again for her big day with all of us there to watch.
When I brought her up to sit with her class and began to walk away, I knew the look on her face. She was scared. She broke into tears and I rushed back to her. I calmed her as much as I could and then I told her it was time for me to go to watch and she had to stay with her class until it was time to dance.
It seemed like forever. One performance after another. Tiny ballerinas with their moms, grown ballerinas who have obviously been working hard for years, cute little dancers more focused on waving to their families than dancing at all. It was sweet and entertaining but I was a wreck. How was my Li? Was she still scared?
Well, the room went black while the next batch of perfect little ballerinas took the stage. I could tell that it was Lila’s class. I saw her silhouette. I know that stance. Her hand was in her mouth and her shoulders showed the slightest shake. She had been crying. She was scared.
I was not prepared for this part. It took everything I had to stop myself from running right up to that stage, hugging her close and calling the whole thing off. I didn’t want her to be scared, or cry. I wanted to save her. Before I could climb over the rows of people in front of me to go get her, the lights went on and the music started.
“twinkle twinkle little star…”
My family oohed and aaahhhed at the little dancers, while I watched in fear. She dropped her hand from her mouth and began to dance*. There were tears of joy from around me, but my tears were different.
I had tears of joy, but also fear and sadness and worry. I did not anticipate this part. There she was, without me to protect her, on a stage in front of hundreds of people. Anyone could laugh at her or she could completely crumble under the pressure and I was stuck out here, helpless to protect her. I held my breath and watched my brave little Li dance in spite of her fear.
I couldn’t shake the thought as the performances continued. A few dances later, a group took the stage, they were a little older than Lila’s class but still quite young. In that group, there was a little girl with special needs. She had some kind of tick or tremor that caused her to yell out sporadically and temporarily shake a little. They danced to Somewhere Over the Rainbow and I just lost it. They all danced together and this girl had the biggest smile on her face. I sobbed thinking about the bravery it took for her to get up there and dance. They bravery it took for her parents to sit back, held captive in the audience, helpless to protect her from stares or laughing or failure. It was so touching and beautiful and the crowed erupted in cheers. I think I’ll always remember.
Afterwards, Lila was beaming with pride. She said, “Mommy, I did all my moves!”. She couldn’t believe that we all came and watched her and got her flowers. She was on cloud nine.
On the car ride home, she kept telling Jordan and me something. We couldn’t understand what she was saying at first but then we figured it out.
“Don’t cry, just dance!”
That’s right baby girl. Life can be hard, scary and even unfair, but God is good and you always have something to be thankful for. So, when times are hard, don’t cry, just dance. When you are different and kids are cruel, don’t cry, my little flower, just dance.
I used to think dancing was just a fun expression of feelings and a great activity to help Lilliana burn off some energy and socialize with other girls. Now, I realize it is a display of discipline and bravery, every time you hit the stage.
I’m so proud of our little ballerina and am honored to be in the front row of the audience of people who get to watch her grow up into who she’s meant to be.
* I use the term “dance” pretty lightly. She did some toe pointing with her hands up and a few solid ballerina twirls, but it wasn’t necessarily the exact choreography…She’s 3