I went to the dress rehearsal instead of the recital because I was leaving for rehab the next day.
My little girls shifted anxiously in their tutus, waiting as each class ran through their routine twice, in anticipation of their big day. Tired dance teachers in worn sweats patiently gave stage directions and cue reminders and shouted directions at the lighting booth. Strong, confident young women (and some boys) took their turns lifting and leaping and plié-ing.
What stands out as I watched them is comradary and teamwork and body positivity as girls in many different shapes and sizes rocked their leotards to the beat of self assurance and acceptance
What stand out when I looked at the show roster is something else. A quick run down of the last names reveals which successful local businesses each girl's parents own. These are our city's mini elites. I am reminded that we don’t fit in here, that constricting sensation that I am not enough.
I knew I didn’t fit in the first time I sat in the parents waiting room, helping my girls with their ballet buns and tutus. I knew from the way the other parents talked about their boats and their cottages and their successful careers as this or that, the way the other parents corrected their children’s posture and form as they skipped off to their classes. These people had their shit together. I don't.
I sat and looked at the roster and wondered where I took a wrong turn. Surely these other parents aren’t charging dance lessons to their credit cards with little certainty they will ever pay it off.
Surely none of these moms are calculating whether or not they can dart out the back door and to the liquor store before their child's turn to mount the stage, resisting that urge because they need 72 hours of sobriety to enter rehab tomorrow.
Surely the other moms aren’t choking back tears in the dark auditorium because they are struck by the poignant juxtaposition of this beautiful organized example of strength and their own messy mucked up life.
Surely the other moms don’t go home from dress rehearsal to wade through addiction and mental illness, fear, debt, pain and resentments.
Except of course they do.
As they took the stage, I saw my daughters and their friends as if for the first time. Tiny on a large stage but grand under the stage lights in their colourful leotards. Bold and confident and self aware, I watched them float across the stage with a grace I am not accustomed to seeing in girls who at home get gum stuck in their hair or fall off a chair with little reason or warning. No, the girls on stage were not the ones I corralled out of the house that morning. They are different. Familiar strangers. Beings far too independent of myself to be the children I have born.
My hands were trembling and my head was spinning as I detoxed in my seat. I felt tragically unique, As if I was wearing my pain and dysfunction on my forehead for the world to see. But in that moment I was joined to a hundred different moms with a hundred different stories, choking back tears for a thousand different reasons, wishing for our kids the same things.
We all want to give our children a glimpse of their own strength, beauty and grace. We want them to see themselves, for a moment, through our eyes. To see themselves as strong and capable. To feel the sense of accomplishment they've earned.
We want to raise kids who can stand in their own truth and bend and sway to the music of life with dignity and purpose.
I watched as the other moms wiped tears from their eyes or grew big unrestrained grins as our daughters moved their bodies with a freedom and strength that dance affords them. Despite the disparity in the price of our handbags, or the struggles each family faces at home, we were united in that moment. None of us were alone.
Whatever you are facing today, no matter how unique your challenge is or feels, you, Mama, are not alone. You are connected to a vast network of broken messy women who long to love our children well, who fail every day, who keep trying to do the next right thing. Our struggles look different, but we long for the same things.
Oh Mama who feels alone, who feels like you don't measure up, who fears you've made too many wrong turns, please keep going. You aren't the only one. You aren't alone.