Right this minute I am sitting at Groove Dance Studio watching Saffron try out a ballet class. (She tries, but can’t contain her smile.) In front of me are 8 adorable girls, with approximately 8 years of life experience each, standing un-selfconsciously in leotards and tights with shoulders slouched and bellies poked out, as they practice their positions. Eight different faces adorn 8 very different body types, and each is a beautiful combination. Oh, enjoy it, lovely girls! Before you get a few years older and a few miles more self-critical.
After this, Saffron will try a jazz class, and later in the week she will try tumbling. Then she gets to choose one class to take. Yesterday my dear cousin Roxey, who owns the studio, generously offered to allow each of my girls to take one dance class for free. Thanks, Rox. The girls have SO wanted to take all sorts of lessons, with dance being the first choice, and I’ve had to put them off for financial reasons. So we are thrilled at Roxey’s gift.
Roxey’s sweet daughter, K, sits next to me as I type. We have matching make up because I arrived barely showered and un-maked up and, having two hours to kill, thought I might try to beautify Mt. Rushmore. K followed me into the bathroom, not remembering my name but having that kid-like confidence in my safeness and kindness because I am her mom’s relative. So, I gave us matching faces.
Roxey is the kind of sweet, thoughtful person who probably would have offered lessons anyway, but after I talked to her last night I thought back over our friendship—because we really are friends as well as cousins. I’m glad I felt it was important a few years ago to start Ruby at Roxey’s studio, to support Roxey. And I’m glad I always paid, and paid on time, and didn’t ask for family favors. (You’d be surprised how many people send their kids to dance without paying.) Because—though I know, as I said, that Roxey probably would have offered anyway—I feel I have treated her fairly and can in good conscience accept her gift.
This reminds me of the situation with Saffron’s teacher. Saffron’s has the same teacher for second grade that Jasper had. Second grade was--how shall we put it--NOT a good school year for Jasper. Gently speaking, Jasper's teacher did not find the joy in him that I find in him. Jasper was frustrated, I was frustrated, and his teacher was obviously frustrated. I considered complaining to the principal, or asking for a class change, but decided instead to try to communicate openly and continuously with Jasper’s teacher, and hope for improvement. I tried to keep two things in mind: one, Charles was born during this school year, so neither I nor Jasper was at our best, or most rational. Two, one mother I knew had a daughter in the class who was having a wonderful experience. I was tempted to blame this teacher entirely and assume she was no good, and bawl her out, but I didn’t. Instead I tried to think she and Jasper were not a good match for teaching and learning style. I managed to get through the year without saying anything I regretted.
I haven’t always been successful at thinking the best of a person or situation, or keeping my mouth shut. I hate that there are people in my life I would not want to run into at the grocery store (Donna and Beth from 1999), and I didn’t want Jasper’s teacher to be another. Good thing, because I did run into her at Costco last year, and I said hello, and she said she heard we were adopting children from Africa, etc. I was friendly. At this time I thought we were getting a kindergartener, and had already talked to Ruby’s kindergarten teacher, whom I loved, about having our new daughter in her class.
But we didn’t get a kindergartener, did we. We got an eight-year-old, and decided she must go to second grade. I asked that Saffron be in one of the other two second grade classes, because they both had children of color in them. But the principal informed me that Jasper’s old teacher was the only ESL certified teacher, and therefore must have Saffron. “Of course!” I thought. Because that would just be our luck. I was very glad at that moment, though, that I had not said anything unforgiveable, and even gladder that I had fought in my own mind to give this teacher the benefit of the doubt.
And guess what? Saffron loves her. And she loves Saffron and is wonderful to her. And guess what else? She did deserve that benefit of the doubt, and I am a little saner now than I was then (I KNOW. If I'm better now, just imagine what I was like that year! Jasper told his counselor I slept a lot and didn't cook.).
I’ve done a lot of really stupid things in my life, but I’m glad I haven’t screwed up every situation, because this year I need all the good vibes I can get.
P.S. Tonight I must remember to educate Saffron about the straight legs and pointed toes that accompany ballet movement. I am definitely all wrong for ballet, but did get in a few years of lessons before I figured that out. (I remember the exact moment: I was watching the video of our latest ballet recital, in which I portrayed a winter berry, and realized I looked like a football player among a class of winter berries. I quit that year.) Then I learned more from watching all of my sisters--everyone but me--excel at ballet. Now there’s an issue I could definitely take to therapy—except I don’t remember feeling bad about it. Gee, I guess we actually CAN have "different talents" without losing our self esteem. I'll have to show Ruby the winter berry video.