Rewind: Every time a parent would describe how their child was grievously wronged or unfairly mistreated during an organized activity, I could feel my eyes trying to roll. “Pull-eaze! It’s just a game / classroom contest or some other competition that inevitably leaves someone feeling they pulled the short straw.”
Besides, it’s usually the high-anxiety parent who is far more upset about hurt feelings than the child, unless the child feeds off that parental ire. In either case, drama ensues. And takes root.
This, I believed, was why they had those no-winners-or-losers so everyone gets a trophy exercises.
Of course, like so many things, it takes on a different perspective when you’re looking out from the inside.
Case in point: My daughter’s dance recital.
(OK, I can hear your eyes beginning to roll back in your head. Bear with me. There’s a payoff.)
Fast forward: My daughter’s dance class has been preparing for the past several months the one number it would perform during the end-of-the-year show.
The class has always been all girls — until this session. A boy was enrolled. This gives the instructor more options when choosing the performance number.
She chose a dance that featured at its center a boy and a girl, surrounded by the other players. (OK, OK, the girl in the middle was my daughter. But she worked hard to be there. It didn’t matter who it was. Honest.)
I went to enough practices to know the boy wasn’t serious about it. But I was the same way when I was his age, too. Besides, being the only boy among 8 or 9 young girls naturally triggers goofy behavior.
His mother was there each week. But she sat in a different area than the “Moms’ Mafia” (I just made that up. Pretty clever, eh?). We sat together on couches, with a floor-to-ceiling curtain separating us from the practice area.
We could hear everything that went on, and we helicoptered over our girls whenever we heard them acting up.
(I finally got the chance to pull back the curtain and use that point two fingers and my eyes, then point two fingers at her “I’m watching you” stunt I’d always wanted to use.)
Meanwhile, the young boy would act like, uh, a young boy. He goofed, he didn’t listen, he upset the class. At times, the chief of the studio had to step in to restore order.
He didn’t learn his part or his steps. His default move — which he fell back on several times — was to stand still and bow whenever he didn’t know what he was supposed to be doing. He bowed a lot.
We’d speak quietly among ourselves about the parent who showed no interest in what was happening on the other side of the curtain. Her attention was always focused elsewhere. In all fairness, there were times she brought the boy’s younger sibling with her. But there were times she didn’t as well.
(Hey — am I seeing only the whites of your eyes? I better speed it up.)
Week before the recital. Instructor tells dancers they need to attend the last class next Tuesday and the dress rehearsal next Thursday, two days before the show. She emphatically said that if anyone didn’t come to the dress rehearsal, they would not be part of the performance.
You see where I’m going with this.
Boy doesn’t show up Tuesday. Boy doesn’t show up Thursday. Parent (me) is relieved, because he felt the boy dragged down the whole number.
Recital day. The studio brass is frantic.
Boy’s mother has put up social media posting ripping the studio a new hole in its ballet slipper.
She offers to withdraw it — if the boy can dance in the show.
She says she never got word the dress rehearsal time had been changed — by one hour. She’s the only one who reported this problem.
Dance studio caves, fearing bad publicity. Instructor gives boy private lesson on Friday night.
Saturday. Buzz, buzz, buzz. “He’s here.” Show time.
The boy is awful. Clueless. Worse than ever. He watches his female partner and tries to copy her moves. It’s an embarrassment. Not even the most indulgent parent could find any redemption in this child’s performance.
At the end, when all of the dancers came out to take a bow, the boy was long ago whisked away by his parents.
That was a shame, because the final move was only step he had mastered.