It was 9 PM and I was just getting my tired eight-year-old home from two hours of ballet rehearsal for an amazing performance opportunity with the Dance Theatre of Harlem. As I dragged out her ballet bag and my purse and the envelope of student papers I took to grade while she rehearsed, it occurred to me: my parents would never have done this for me.
Don't get me wrong. I love and loved my parents. They were good parents and did so much for me. Plus, when I was growing up, there just weren't as many opportunities for kids. You joined the Y or the JCC or you did things with your church youth group. Maybe little league and swim lessons in the summer. I took piano. I did free art classes with the Louisville Visual Arts Association (LVAA). Theatre camp and music camp two different summers. But running me downtown five days straight during the school year for ballet? I don't think they would have done that. My dad worked two jobs and my mom was afraid to drive at night.
I'm not trying to say that I'm the best mom ever - WINNING! - and I'm not trying to espouse a particular parenting philosophy. I just want my kids to thrive. To grab every opportunity presented to them with gusto. To feel empowered to try new things, meet new people, go new places, all without fear, like I had. And so what if next year my little ballerina decides she's done with dance and takes up water polo or welding? So. What. My son has already switched from soccer to chess and drums and has informed me that next up is karate, piano, violin, and guitar. I say: try it!
Last Saturday, I drove home from the grocery listening to From The Top, the classical performance show featuring super talented kids. An eleven year old boy stepped up to the mic and talked about the 16th century Strativarius he was playing on loan from the Stradivari Society of Chicago, "It's older than my dad!" He was charming, adorable. And then he lit bow to strings and I started weeping. Weeping, in the car, alone on my way back from the grocery, because this child - this eleven-year-old boy - was playing the most gorgeous, nuanced solo I had ever heard. Because he explained that he was inspired by cellist Joshua Bell. Because this week he has the opportunity to play Bell's signature piece - in front of Joshua Bell. This boy followed his dreams and his parents supported him along the way.
I doubt that I have two little super star kids and that's not really my goal. I just want to get out of the way and let their talents grow and shine, nurturing them with attention and love and the permission to bail out whenever they feel it's time.
Here is a link (with video of eleven-year-old Nathan Meltzer) to last week's From The Top: