The Sign

Saturday, October 06, 2012 1:54 AM | Debbi Lester (Administrator)
I write this because of someone I witnessed earlier today. Or maybe all the other long-forgotten incidents flashed through my mind because of her, I don't know. Either way, I just have to get it down.

I've been teaching a series of dance workshops, from Seattle to Poulsbo to Port Angeles to Olympia, and many towns in between. This morning, one mother insisted on watching her daughter take my class. I don't allow this and promptly said so. "I just thought I could help my daughter remember what she learns today," is what she said, indignantly, on her way out the door.

If help of this nature is supposed to make kids apply themselves more, I can say from experience it doesn't work.

When I owned a dance studio and wanted, more than anything else, to teach young students how to trust their own perfect minds and bodies, I had to put my foot down: "Parents are allowed to watch only the first class of the month." read the sign on my door.

Because some of the mothers? You would not believe (only now there is a reality show, so you would). No self control. Absolutely none. Their own insecurities rose right up, landing on their child's self-esteem. I could see how they really did struggle with it, knowing they were over the top, but it rarely stopped them for long.

It got so I could spot these parents on registration day. Visually, they were more and more like a warning, a manifestation, what unrealized and/or unattempted goals and dreams can become. How people can age, then age some more, without ever accomplishing something of their own to be proud of. Maybe they woke up one morning and found they were no longer able to focus on their career and couldn't adjust to the reality. Or maybe they never attempted a creative one and feel cheated somehow. I knew these outbursts were hungers that, on another level, weren't directed at their kids so much as at life at large. Pent up, they had no where else to pop but in my studio. I think this is what's really going on.

I also think these women would stop interfering if they were able to get past seeing their kids as a chance they had been given. No kid wants to be their parent's way of reaching for more, of gaining something else.

It seems I've described the worst case dance-parent. There were others, lots of others, who were encouraging, supportive, positive. But my signboard couldn't be selective or the meanies would have come down on me, I was pretty sure of that.

"Your child may be learning a few dance steps here, but you are keeping your child from taking a huge leap forward if you comment from the sidelines. What does your child want from class? The opposite of everything you want, just like when you shop for clothes together."

This is the sign I should have hung. Never mind the objections. Why didn't I? What we'd do over if only we could, right?

Mary Lou Sanelli

Sanelli's works as a writer and speaker. Her latest book is Among Friends.
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