When my daughter was 5, she took a ballet class.
All of her little friends were taking dance classes and she was desperate to take one, too.
I wasn’t convinced this was going to be something that really “stuck” so rather than sign her up at a dance school, I found a $45 beginning ballet class at our local community school.
We went out and bought the required pink leotard, tights and slippers, and my little girl was beside herself with excitement in the days leading up to her first class.
We walked into the studio and there were about eleven other little girls, clutching the legs of their mothers who were chatting with each other.
When everyone was there, the teacher said it was time to begin, and so everyone pried their ballerinas from their legs and the moms went to the hallway to wait while the girls went to sit in a circle in the middle of the floor.
I had brought a book to read, so I sat on the floor and began to read.
The rest of the moms crowded around the door, anxiously, looking through the small, square window.
“Oh my Gooooodness! They are SOOOOOO adorable!”
“Look at Cassie! Good girl with that plie!”
“I can’t believe how fast Sara can pirouette! Did she learn that from you?”
I sat there, alternately reading my book and listening to their chatter, and eventually, my curiosity got the best of me.
I stood up and brushed off my pants, imagining what I would see when I looked through the window.
My girl, clearly, would be the star of the show.
I was sure she was plie-ing and pirouetting with the best of ‘em, and that her ballet positions were putting every other little girl to shame.
As I neared the windows, the mothers parted like the Red Sea with looks that I couldn’t quite identify.
I was pretty sure it was jealousy.
Then, I peeked through the window.
There they all were. Matching tutus and leotards. A sea of pink fluff.
Every girl diligently followed the moves that the teacher was demonstrating in the front of the room, concentrating hard on the movements.
I smiled and searched for my girl.
I couldn’t find her.
I began to stand on my tiptoes to get a better angle, and looked this way and that, trying to locate my ballerina.
One of the other mothers finally took pity on me and whispered, “In the back.”
And there, in the back of the room, was my girl.
Blissfully staring at herself in the floor to ceiling mirror.
Not paying a lick of attention to what the teacher and the other girls were doing.
Dancing to the music inside her own head, with her own moves, in her own way.
My cheeks flamed with embarrassment, and I was just about to raise my hand and tap on the window to get her attention when she spun.
And as she spun, I saw that look on her face.
The look of utter joy and happiness.
And I left my hand at my side and began to smile myself.
Because that was MY girl.
That was my girl who always did everything in her own way, according to her own rules.
Why had I thought, for even a moment, that dance class was going to be any different?
I brought her back every single week, and every single week, I watched as she started class with the other girls and went through the exercises, and then, her attention would be caught by her own, magical reflection, and off she would go to dance her own dance of joy.
My little girl is 12 now and she has learned that, sometimes, to get by, you have to dance like the others.
But for the things that matters, she still does it all in her own way, and really doesn’t care to be like everyone else.
Yes, she struggles, sometimes, to love herself the way that we love her, but that’s just being human.
She isn’t a non-conformist…she just doesn’t feel the need to follow the trend, to do what’s cool, to say “Oh, me too,” when really, it isn’t her at all.
I love her so fiercely, and I hope that she always sees and does things her own way.
Because even though it may not be what everyone else is doing, her way is incredible.