This morning, I took Lily to her first ballet class.
We have been watching ballet videos and talking about "baller-ninas" for weeks now, and we finally found a class for her to join. We bought her a sweet little tutu and ballet flats and she skipped with me and grandma to the classroom. She said over and over, "I'm so excited for my dance class!" and "I was nervous earlier but now I'm not!" with the brightest smile.
We held hands into the classroom and into a flood of pink tutus and giggles, but Lily froze. She jumped into my arms and held onto me as tight as she could and buried her face in my neck. I tried to encourage her, to set her down while the girls were lining up for class to begin. I pried her off of me and backed out of the room while she stood frozen with tears in her eyes. I thought, she'll warm up to it and everything will be fine. The music began and the girls around her began to dance, but she couldn't. She held her arms and cried until her teacher called for me.
These moments make my heart hurt. They make me ache.
And I remember, my heart walks outside of my body. I spend my days teaching her, holding her, loving her, and then someday she will walk out of my door and into the world to be on her own.
And sometimes, the world will be too much for her. And I won't always be able to save her. But today, I could. Today I scooped her up and carried her away from all of it. She sat on grandma's lap to watch the rest of the girls through the windows and, when they were given pink butterfly stamps on their hands at the end of the lesson, she bravely went back inside for a stamp of her own. As the rest of the girls skipped out of the room to their mamas, she climbed out of grandma's arms and danced in the studio. We talked to the teacher about a different class where the parents stay in and help and we decided to try that class next week.
After class, a few girls stayed to run around in the grass. Lily jumped around and practiced her dance moves and began to form new friendships. By the time we walked to the car, she was smiling and dancing and feeling so proud of herself. Instead of dwelling on her "failure" to participate in dance class, we talked about how brave she was, the friends she made, and how sweet her tutu and dance moves are.
I don't know why I'm writing this, or why it would mean anything to anyone but me. But I know that my daughter is so brave in her own time. I am learning to respect the time she needs to become comfortable in a new place. I have been learning this since she was a baby and I'd try to drop her off in church nurseries, and I am learning that it's okay to ignore people when they recommend that I just leave and let her cry. It's okay to listen to my child's needs over the advice of others, and it's okay to love her the way she needs it, and it's okay to not care what anyone else thinks of our parenting. I am learning to push and encourage her in some ways, and to cuddle her and remember how young she is in others. She is learning to be a big girl -- a confident, kind, graceful, radiant one. We are all learning.
She teaches me every day how to become a better mama, and my heart is so full.