It turns out that our 4-year-old drama queen, who melts down faster than you can flick a light switch, has found the perfect venue: ballet.
At her first visit to a dance class in August, our daughter Carla flamed out big-time. Some non-English-speaking mommies rushed the door to accompany their children into the classroom, even though instructor Miss Holly said kids must enter alone.
First, Miss Holly issued a stern “Mommies, NO!” Then the other girls melted down, and their moms upbraided them for crying. (My Lovely Bride and I don’t parent that way – if our kids don’t want to do an extracurricular activity, we’re won’t bully them into it. I’m much better at a passive-aggressive approach.) Carla got sucked into the drama vortex and melted down, too. Instead of pulling it together, however, she ended up spending the entire class in my wife’s lap. And then she got it in her head that Miss Holly is mean, and that she’s not ready for ballet class until she’s 4. My wife and I realize the teacher is merely keeping order in her classroom, but suspect Carla might be right on the second count.
Fast forward to January – with another birthday under her belt – and our Carla gives it another try. This time, Daddy takes her. (After she was repeatedly super-clingy and crying at the Sunday school dropoff at church, Daddy took to doing this one, too.) We built it up for weeks – her brother doesn’t get to go, only big girls can do this, she might get to wear a special costume and then we can go out to lunch – just her and Daddy.
The day arrives, and things are a little discombobulated. I forget to find out what time the class starts, so we just show up and hope for the best. My wife tries her best at the required ballet dancer’s bun, but our little girl’s red hair resists. And amid other girls in blue leotards, white tights and pink ballet slippers, our 4-year-old shows up in lime green tights she got on by herself, a black skirt with multi-colored hearts and a white turtleneck. But Miss Holly smiles, as Carla follows the swarm of other little girls into the room.
She passes the test! All she really had to do is enter the room by herself! Miss Holly waves me into the observation gallery as Carla falls right with the six other girls and one boy. In no time, she is at the barre with arms outstretched, pointing her toes and learning to piqué.
Things get dicey, however, when it comes time to hop on one foot, arms outstretched, the length of the room. “This is a 4-year-old skill,” Miss Holly tells the parents who are observing the class. When Carla doesn’t hear Miss Holly’s instructions, she gets the parental finger and a firm “wait your turn.” That’s all she needs, and Carla melts down. In seconds, Miss Holly scoops her up, and Carla sobs into Miss Holly’s neck.
“Drama?” Miss Holly calls across the studio in my direction, amid titters from the other parents. I nodded. “One of the qualifications of a ballerina,” she grins.
(The place we found classes is Peabody Institute of Johns Hopkins University, known as Peabody Prep.)