Have I touched on “mom guilt” yet? I do not think I have, but even if I did, it deserves a second round of discussion and probably a third, fourth and fifth.
The “mom guilt” has gotten me down this week. Whew, I had a rough case of it the other night. I often wonder why it always hits so hard after I have gone to bed. Perhaps it is because I just do not have time to really think about it while I am carrying on with the day. It creeps in ever so slowly after everyone is tucked in for the night and my head hits the pillow.
And it is overwhelming. This bout hit me like a freight train and by time I realized it, I was far too gone to go back.
Ashton has dance class every Tuesday. This is her second year. Last year, she absolutely loved it. She saw her older sister, Emerson, going to dance year after year and she would sit in the lobby and watch her practice once a week. Most days, I had to drag her out of Emerson’s class because she wanted to stay and dance, too. So, when she met the minimum requirement to start taking classes, of course I signed her up. She could not wait to buy new leotards, tights, shoes and all the tutus. She would happily waltz into class and always came out with the biggest grin.
But like I said, that was last year.
This year has been a completely different story. She hates dance. I ask Emerson and Ashton every year when registration time is near if they would like to sign up again. Emerson is extremely dedicated to it. This year is her fifth year. She has moved up a class or two and she is incredibly talented when it comes to dancing.
I guess Ashton heard Emerson say she wanted to sign up or maybe she was still experiencing the high from the last recital- her first time performing on stage, so she said, “yes,” she would like to dance for a second year. I signed her up.
Now, if any of you are dance moms, you know this stuff is not cheap. You must pay for practice clothes, recital fees, costumes, pictures and monthly tuition.
Dance classes begin around September, and they usually try to hold the yearly recital in May. So, Ashton has been going to this same class since September, every week. January rolls around, so we are about 4 months in at this point and have already spent a pretty penny and guess what? Now she decides she does not want to go.
There is no convincing her, no bribing her with toys or money and no threatening her either. She has put her foot down and she is not going to class. Well, I am usually all pro, “You made a commitment. You signed up. You’re going to finish what you started.” And I think that is a good angle honestly, but to what extent?
I mean she is four. This angle would definitely work on my nine-year-old. She is old enough to understand the time, money and energy that goes into things like this. She is responsible enough to know that she made a commitment and that means you follow through. Ashton is not old enough to get that and it took me coming down with this extremely bad case of “mom guilt” that I was referring to, for me to really understand that.
This past Tuesday and for the last four Tuesdays before that, when it is time for dance Ashton will have a complete meltdown, but we will get her dressed, all the while I am trying to pump her up and tell her she is going to have so much fun and yada yada yada yada. I somehow get her in the car, and she puts on a somewhat brave face, walks in and towards the classroom door before all hell breaks loose. I am talking screaming, hitting, crying- full on tantrum.
I take her to the bathroom and at this point I am just so embarrassed. She is acting out of character, and I am acting out of character. I am thinking about how much money we have already spent on classes, and we have already paid in full for her recital costumes, so please just go to class. It was not happening.
So, I attempted to explain the whole commitment thing. I began bargaining with a four-year-old. I say, “You can go to class for one hour and we can go home when you are finished and do something fun. (She wanted to decorate her Valentine’s Day box that she is supposed to bring to school by the end of the week.) If we go home now and you do not go into class, then we are not going to do your box today.”
I thought it was a pretty fair deal at the time. She chose not to go to class, therefore we did not decorate her box that night. Cue, another complete Ashton meltdown. She eventually gathered her wits and went on about the day, like it never happened and so did I.
Until I laid down. I felt so bad. She does not understand the concept of money or commitment. All she knows is that she does not enjoy dance and she does not want to go, so she should not have to. Of course, I believe it is important to instill these especially important ideals in your children- being responsible with money and making sure you follow through with your commitments, but she is FOUR. I was making the situation about me and not focusing on what Ashton wanted and what would make her happy.
As a parent I feel like I have every right to explain the benefits of participating in extracurricular activities, like dance, but it is not right for me to try to bribe or punish her if it’s just simply something she does not want to do anymore. She is figuring out her interests and she deserves to have free reign in deciding what those interests are without me trying to influence them.
I am telling you I prayed so hard and asked God to forgive me. I wanted to run into Ashton’s room and just hug her and tell her I was sorry. I tossed and turned all night. I could not wait for her to wake up the next morning, so I could love on her. It ate me up.
I woke her up for school and I gave her a big squeeze and told her how sorry I was. I asked her if she forgave me and she said, “I don’t care about that, I just want to do my box.”
Needless to say, we are getting this Valentine’s Day box done and I am going to let her have a field day with it. I do not care if it looks like pure trash, as long as she is happy with it. The perfectionist in me will turn a blind eye this time.
Now I can stop dreading Tuesdays (because it had actually gotten to that point) because she is definitely done with dance.
(Paige Nash is a wife, mom, digital journalist for Webster Parish Journal and publisher for Bienville Parish Journal.)
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