When I was growing up in the dance world, we called them Stage Moms. They were the ones who had extra bobby pins, hairspray, and the oh-so-important red lipstick (3 different shades, for different skintones of course). If a piece called for glitter, they had it. If a skirt needed to be hemmed, they were in the wings with their sewing kit threaded and ready to stitch. Some of them even knew choreography by heart. They were pushy. They were involved. They were living vicariously.
My mom was never one of these moms. She was always so supported of my dance career, but she was never pushy. She never let me quit, no matter how much I complained: I had committed to a full year, and I had to fulfill my commitment. And when fall rolled around she paid my tuition for another year.
TLC’s show DANCE MOMS depicts a whole new kind of “Stage Mom”. Don’t get me wrong. It’s one of my guilty pleasures. I love watching the drama. But as a dance teacher, and a mother of two daughters, I have to wonder: is this what it means to be a dance mom these days? These women take their role of dance mom to a whole new level. I love that, for the most part, they are super supportive of their children and their dance careers. Those girls are really talented and have what it takes: talent, and a family that supports them. That is the most important thing. Should parents be involved in their child’s extra-curricular activities? Absolutely. Do they need to be present at every.single.rehearsal/practice? Not really. (Performances/shows/games/etc…that’s a different story…absolutely parents should be at every event possible). Do they really need to fight their daughters’ battles (or create them)? No. Do they need to fight over who’s child is the best, talk about children not being good enough, or, really, fight at all in front of their children? Absolutely not.
So what does it really mean to be a dance mom in this day and age? Here are some thoughts I have on the subject, as a dancer, a teacher, and now a mom…
~Follow your child’s lead. Children are starting activities younger and younger these days. There are mommy and me classes for 2 year olds for all kinds of activities these days, ranging from dance and gymnastics to tennis and golf. Golf! For 2 year olds! Don’t get me wrong, I do not see this as a bad thing. I just signed my almost-two-year-old up for our first mommy and me ballet class! This has the potential for pushing too-much-too-soon on our kids, causing early burnout. Parents should follow their child’s lead: see what they express interest in and encourage it, without forcing it. Instill in your child–as I am so grateful my mom did for me–that it is important to fulfill their commitments. Encourage them to finish out the season, then take a break and see what they think about returning.
~Consider your child’s feelings. As kids grow, they need the opportunity to explore who they are going to be. That means they need time away from their parents so that they can express themselves in different ways, try on a new personality, or just make up their own mind about things. When signing up to be team mom, consider how your child might feel. Do they want you around? Or would this be an opportunity for them to have that time away from you? Don’t look at this as a bad thing, or let your feelings be hurt! Look at it as a positive thing! You are raising an independent thinker, and feel confident in the activity and environment you are entrusting with their care. And hey, an hour of “me time” for you might not be so bad!
~Do what is best for your child, not you. You may have enrolled your child in their first dance class because you always dreamed of being a dancer. Over time, your child will develop their own feelings towards dance: either their love of the art will grow, or they will loose interest and move on to other activities. I whole-heartedly believe in teaching a child the importance of keeping their commitments, but some battles are not worth fighting, especially when the battle you are fighting is your dream, not theirs.
~And above all, always encourage your child to have FUN, now win or be the best. Dance, and all activities your child tries out, should start off being fun. They may reach a point where they choose to be more serious about their craft, but that is THEIR choice, not the parents’. Let them be young! They have the rest of their lives to be serious.
Stay tuned, in a follow-up post I will share some thoughts on how you can appropriately encourage your child’s love of dance and things you can do at home to make them a “better dancer.”
Ciao for now!