My “Beautiful” Hair

Sophie and I played “hair salon” today. I sit on the floor of her room while she brushes and puts barrettes in her dolls’ hair, waiting my turn. When my turn comes she tries to brush it but quickly becomes frustrated, because of the curls. Then she sticks some barrettes near the bottom of my hair, says “It’s beautiful!” and then I get up and finish cleaning the kitchen.

Except today, I forgot about the barrettes.

Three hours later, I took Sophie to ballet and hip hop at the Y.

It wasn’t until the kids’ bath, when Andy walked up behind me and started tugging on a barrette, asking “What’s this about?” that I remembered.

“My mother had a great deal of trouble with me, but I think she enjoyed it.” —Mark Twain

Tuesday Ballet

Every Tuesday at 5pm I load up all three kids into the minivan and drive to the Campbell County YMCA for Sophie’s ballet class. She’s been doing this for a year now. She loves it, as was apparent when she had to take a three-week break after her surgery.

It’s a really nice class. It’s free, with our family membership. I can drop the boys off at Child Watch (which they now get excited for, compared to screaming about it every time we drive pass the Y building). I sit on a bench and talk with other parents while watching Sophie be reminded to stand in first position (also called pizza feet), and attempt a plié, port de bras and sauté. Her teacher is the perfect combination of strict and not-so-strict.

There are no recitals, because the class isn’t with a dance studio—rather it’s simply a Y offering. But we have many years for recitals, concerts, games and plays. I’m OK with this once-a-week activity. I’m OK with the simplicity of it. Lately we’ve been sticking around for youth hip-hop, immediately following. I bring the boys up—they love it. James has some moves.

Once home, after dinner, Sophie runs up to her room and turns on her radio—WGUC 90.9, Cincinnati’s classical music station, is her current favorite. The child listens to it day and night, swirling around her room until she’s dizzy. She calls it her “royal ball music.” And at least three times a week she passes around a carefully handwritten invitation to the RULBO (royal ball). Then, after dinner, all five of us spin around her tiny bedroom to Vivaldi and Bach.

These are some of my favorite evenings.

“Dance, even if you have nowhere to do it but your living room.” —Kurt Vonnegut

The Nutcracker

I was 6 years old, the first time I saw The Nutcracker. I still have the program from the Cincinnati Ballet Company—I pull it out every Christmas. And I can I still remember the wonderment I felt when Mother Ginger lifted her enormous skirt and a dozen children danced out of it. So I don’t know who was more excited—Sophie or I—when my mom wondered if we would like to see The Nutcracker with her this year.

We saw a different version, de la Dance Company’s The Nutcracker Jazzed Up! My mom knew the mom of Clara—subsequently, Sophie got to meet Clara after the performance, which she was shy about but I think she loved.

Our entire family got hit with a stomach bug a couple days before this event. At one point I was in the bathroom getting sick, Andy was holding a towel up for James who was getting sick and Owen started getting sick. The whole idea of throwing up terrified Owen so much that he started running, while getting sick, around our living room and entry. When we finally got him to stop running he finished, all over Tucker. I.t w.a.s h.o.r.r.i.b.l.e. We pulled a crib mattress down into the living room so the kids could try to sleep in between getting sick episodes. All night long it was laundry, baths, tears, repeat, repeat, repeat.

I’ve since learned many friends have gone through something similar—some over the holidays. I’m so sorry.

I was worried we were going to have to cancel The Nutcracker. But Sophie was 100 percent better in less than 24 hours. I took longer to feel better, but rallied, knowing the importance of the event, and went.

I’m so glad I did. I spent as much time watching her as I watched the performance. Re-experiencing things for the first time, through your children, is one of the better aspects of mothering.

Since The Nutcracker Sophie has flipped through my childhood program from the ballet almost every day. She hums music from it often and whenever she hears it on the radio she says, “The Nutcracker!”

I’m pretty sure Andy was only humoring me the few times we’ve been to the ballet. Perhaps, now, I’ve found a new ballet partner.

Thanks, Mom, for a great gift.

“We should consider every day lost in which we don’t dance.” —Nietzsche

Dressing a Ballerina

This week, we signed Sophie up for her first extracurricular activity/class/sport etc. of her life—ballet at the YMCA.

The class meets once a week for 30 minutes and is free with a family membership. She’s been dying to take a dance class, specifically ballet, ever since she went to a preschool friend’s birthday party held at a dance school. She had to be 4 years old, though, to attend the class. She turns 4 March 30 and per the Y’s rules, she was able to sign up the month she turned 4. So we signed her up.

The afternoon of her first class, I was frantically trying to find the boys’ shoes, having not paid attention to the time, having not been used to 4:45pm activities. Sophie was wearing a black-and-white striped dress and, because it was cool, I insisted she wear leggings. As I was putting her (gray) leggings, socks and tennis shoes on, she looked at me, horrified.

“This is not what ballerinas wear!” she said.

“What?” I asked.

“This is not what ballerinas wear! I need shoes, tights, skirt and a little top. Pink.”

“Oh, Sophie,” I said. “This is just a casual thing. No one is going to be wearing an entire ballerina outfit. Your outfit will be just fine, I’m sure.”

Cut to the class.

Every single child was wearing soft pink. Soft pink leotards, in various cuts and styles. Soft pink tutus. And tights. Some soft pink. Some white. And ballet shoes! Everyone had ballet shoes.

Sophie glared at me.

“I’m sorry,” I said. “Truly, I had no idea. We’ll get you an outfit.”

Andy left work early to watch her, just for her first class.

“What is she holding?” he asked when he arrived.

“She’s not holding anything,” I said. “She’s wearing a large, plastic, Disney ring from a cupcake she got at her last birthday party. She was worried her outfit wasn’t going to be fancy enough.”

“She was right,” Andy said.

When I played T-ball, I had a uniform. In fact I remember my dad showing me how to tuck my socks into my pants, just like the pros did. Artists wear smocks. Musicians have instruments. I suppose I should have realized ballerinas, even at 4 years old, wear ballet shoes.

So, today, we went to Target.

And now I have a very happy ballerina.

“I wanted so badly to study ballet, but it was really all about wearing the tutu.” —Elle Macpherson