You’re a 21st century parent. Not one of those helicopter ones, maybe just a hang glider. You don’t push, you encourage. You don’t pry, you leave your door open. Some days you wake and wonder which weighs more: the amount of love you have for your children, or the pressure to not turn them into Kardashians. You want the best for your kids. You want to give them everything you never had, but you know deep down that you have to teach them the word no. You have to teach them to want. And disappointment and how to face failure. So you pray every day to God, the Universe, to whomever is listening: Please please please let everything be okay…
One day you’re holding a Bundle of Joy, and the next Bundle is a teenager as tall as you, asking for a Kate Spade purse, because, “Hey Mom, they’re 80% off at the outlet mall!” Okay, you think, she’s learned to be somewhat frugal…that’s good. You tack on a few extra chores because a Kate Spade purse at 80% off is still a Kate Spade purse, and you feel pretty good about your hang glider parenting.
Then Bundle of Joy tells you she wants to be a professional ballet dancer. The brakes screech to a halt in your brain. Professional ballerina? That’s a pretty tall order. That’s like a Starbucks Grande-sized order. That’s a dream that will almost certainly bring forth the words no and want and disappointment and failure. But still, you watch Bundle dance across the stage and the Joy that radiates out of her soul moves you to tears. How can you say no? Instead, you pray. Please please please let it be okay….
So one year you send your aspiring ballerina to a very expensive summer dance intensive, and then another and another, until you can’t do it anymore. You have to throw out the words you hated to hear as a child: “We can’t afford it.” To your pleasant surprise, she understands. She swallows the disappointment and takes it in stride. How very mature, you think. When she hits you with, “Can I still audition to see if I can get a scholarship?” you burst with pride at her pluck and never-give-up attitude. Way to go Hang Glider!
On a cold January day you drive her to the audition, to a room full of black leotards, bunheads and dance moms with Kate Spade purses. You think bitterly that these moms never have to say “We can’t afford it” and life isn’t fair and you question every decision you’ve ever made. But here you are, this is it, this is your lot. You suck it up and pray. Please please please whatever is meant to be, Your will be done…
A week later Bundle of Joy shows you the email:
Congratulations!! We are happy to inform you that you have been accepted to a 2016 ABT Summer Intensive!
Only, it is not the one you prayed for, the one to North Carolina on a scholarship. Actually, it is better. She has been accepted to the New York City summer intensive. New York City. Where her dreams are aimed straight like an arrow at a bulls-eye. Where your husband has an aunt who has an apartment and sure, you can stay there for free. We CAN afford it! Prayers answered!
Prayers, yes. But something else. You prayed, but your daughter did this. She did this because she’s the one that worked for it. She’s the one that stretched and sweated, bandaged her blisters, and texted you from school: can I take an extra dance class tonight. She’s the one that went into that audition class and tamped down her nerves and awe at seeing Julie Kent and just danced. You drove the car, but she did this.
The days flip by and now you find yourself on a train platform and the 168 from Baltimore to New York’s Penn Station hisses and clangs and starts to slip away. You want to run beside the train like a war bride, waving your handkerchief, yelling, “Stay safe!” and “Eat fruits and veggies!” and “Don’t forget to bruuuuush yooouuurrrr teeeeeeeth!!!”
But you don’t. You stand there stock-still until the silver line becomes a blip that disappears on the horizon. Then you walk steadily back to your Hyundai and drive away. You flick on the 80s XM station because you want to sing very loudly, songs that you know, songs that got you through it all Back Then. The first voice that reaches your ear—believe it or not—is Jon Bon Jovi, and he tells you very succinctly:
We’ve gotta hold on to what we got / It doesn’t make a difference if we make it or not
Yes. This is it.
Your voice screams out of the sunroof:
Woah, we’re half way there / Woah, livin’ on a prayer / Take my hand, we’ll make it I swear / Woah, livin’ on a prayer