In our house we have what we call the BIG girls and LITTLE girls. Well, the BIG girls, our 11 yr old’s had a “Spring Dance” this weekend. It was officially their second co-ed school dance. The first one was last fall semester and was a more laid back. It was a Halloween dance. This one was an actual “dress up” dance. They wore nice dresses and all…a big deal, right? Yes, those are their actual dresses in the picture and that is my crazy dog to the right! But, since it was the second time around we were more prepared because at the first dance, I will fully admit that I, not them, was a hot mess. As soon as I got the orange flyer on the kitchen counter (remember it was for a Halloween dance), I went to my room and silently cried. My silent tears turned into a full-blown ugly cry at which time my husband heard me from the other room. He came to “talk me down” and proceed to tell me that they were growing up. Like I didn’t know that? Now, I never remember having dances in 5th grade. I still think that this is really too young and that as a society in general our kids are made to grow up too fast! As parents, my husband and I tend to sway to the conservative side in our parenting technique and always rely on our faith first. My first instinct was to not let them go, but as they get older, I want them to experience life and make decisions on their own with pre-set parental boundaries. This is a very, very difficult task for me and any momma out there. I tend to be a bit of a control freak, so I sat in my bed and just cried for a little while longer, feeling out of control. Then, my baby girl came in and said, “momma, I don’t have to go to the dance, I will just stay home with you, it’s ok”. That was not what I wanted, I did not know what I wanted. I quickly put that orange piece of paper over my face to pretend like I wasn’t crying and told her that it was her decision and to think about it. After a barrage of discussions and emotions ultimately they went, I stayed the whole time chapparoning, embarrassed them, videoed it and they had a great time!
So, I thought this Spring Dance was going to be a breeze! We knew what we were doing, right? I had already experienced all of my mommy emotions already of letting go from this perspective and them growing up. So, a few days before we picked out beautiful dresses and shoes. We discussed which of their friends were going and what they were wearing. They were excited! I was excited for them! Friday came and I did their hair, make up, finger nails…such mom and daughter bonding time. It was so much fun, I just love making those memories with my girls! Then after they were completely ready, of course, we had to do a complete photo shoot outside! I was savoring every moment. They looked so beautiful.
Here we go. Driving to the middle school gym to drop them off and one girl says, “Your staying right mom?” “Well, no, I wasn’t planning on it, hun, I’m wearing a t-shirt and I think you both will do just fine.” Silence. We pull up and the drama begins.
“OMG! There’s no one here! I’m not getting out!” Fussy Daughter
“Calm down. I will pull around and park.” Me
“No one has on a dress.” as she slumps and melts in to the front seat of the vehicle. Fussy Daughter
So, we wait in the vehicle for maybe 10-15 minutes as I pump them up to go in. I tell them everything is going to be ok as they watch the door like hawks to see any other girls that may have pretty dresses walk in the door, so they are not the only ones. Here is what I say,
“Be Bold, Be Brave, Be Beautiful!”
“Do you want to be a Leader, or a Follower? Do you want to wait for someone else to get out of the car or do you want to be the first one to get out? That is the difference in a leader and a follower? Be Bold, Be Brave and You Are Beautiful!”
So, just then, my daughter who had not been saying much or making a fuss about it says, “I CAN’T get out!” and I ask, “why not?” She says, because her sister WON’T follow her! She boldly gets out and we ALL follow! Proud mommy moment! As we walk up to the gym, you can hear the music blaring. I dance as we walk up the sidewalk, embarrassing, yes I know, but that’s a parent right, ok?
You can make it into the gym, without mom? “I am the only mommy here”, I whisper to her, as we stand about 5 feet in front of the door. Her sister is also by her side. She is freaking out internally, I can tell because I know her. I ask her if she wants to leave. She tells me no. So, I give her the best advice that I know to. Until your “friend group” gets here, stay with your sister, walk around like you know what you’re doing and nod your head to the music. She says, “NO, I am going to stay RIGHT here!” Oh, Honey, you can’t stand 5 feet from the door, GO WALK AROUND! And I literally push her as her sister pulls her, and I walk out of the gym.
I was a mommy bird pushing her baby bird out of the nest. But, I did not stick around to see if that baby bird flew or crashed. I would have been too painful, for me and her. I think socially awkward is the right word to use here. 11 is a tough age, middle school years are a difficult time to “find who you are”. I remember my first dance, albeit, it was in JUNIOR HIGH, not middle school! Plus, this particular night, I had a hot tub that had my name all over it and a date with my husband! Those don’t come too often, so mommy’s have to take advantage of times like that too!
As my husband and I are driving one hour early to pick the girls up, we get a call, that the fussy girl is not feeling well and would like to come home. Lets just call that parental intuition, we all have it! When they get in the vehicle, we begin discussing the evening. They both say they had a great night! The dance was packed, all their friends came, and they got their pictures made 3 times. “So, why did you want to come home early?” She said her stomach hurt. “Really?, or were you just ready to be home?”, “No, really, I ate soooooo many cookies and drank tooooo much Dr. Pepper. I love you, mom.”
The next day, I reflected upon the experience. Which, in any life experience is a good practice to do. There are a couple of things I was glad I had done, I call my “proud mommy moments” and a few things I wished I had done differently.
1. I should’ve taken more pictures! You can never have enough pictures, especially of life’s everyday things. This particular weekend life brought us my daughter’s first dress up co-ed dance, and yes, I did a “photo shoot”, but I wish I had taken pictures OR had my husband taken pictures of ALL of us while I was helping them get ready. I treasure those precious memories! And, I totally left out that I plucked my girls eyebrows for the FIRST time, too. No more unibrow in this house! Wouldn’t that have been so funny to have a picture or video of?
2. I know for sure that I did better the second dance than the first. I was more relaxed and calm. I did not cry, which is always a good sign. My proud “mommy moment” came in reflection when I knew my fussy daughter who had so much stress over going ultimately did have a great time. I questioned if I was doing the right thing by “pushing her out of the nest”. I felt so bad about leaving. I know that is how my moms of preschoolers feel when they leave their crying 3-year-old in the classroom when they are having separation anxiety. It’s all part of growing up. But, it only lasts a moment. And, my girl’s anxiety only lasted a moment. I allowed her to work through it herself with words of encouragement and praise with help from mom. I let her know I was there for her, if she need me and made it her choice. My hope for her and all of my children is this will be what guide’s her life choices…her faith, guidance from parents and wisdom.