Soon after the texts started rolling in..."Can Rach play after choreography?", "Would Rachel like to sleepover after dance on Tuesday?". And so on. At first you bemoaned the long day at the studio over the sacred two week break. But as I was pulling your hair into a ponytail Tuesday morning and packing you up for a series of play dates with dance friends, you admitted that you were really looking forward to a day of dance.
Dance, moreso this year than in years past, has become your life. It is not only something that you love to do, but has become a steady source of confidence and a constructive outlet for your endless energy. Often times, after a hard day of school, you will express your desire to just go and "dance it off". I am so grateful that you have this in your life...not only for the confidence it gives you, but also for the social opportunities, and for an incredibly effective physical outlet for your stress.
Earlier this year, you were invited to join a team of dancers aged 12-13. This invitation came a month after placement auditions, and was totally unexpected. You were comfortable on your existing team and were in the enviable place of team leader, dancing front and center, the go to girl. Moving up to Company meant not only dancing with older girls, but also committing to 12-16 hours, four days per week. It was an incredible opportunity, but one that came with a great deal of worry and trepidation for me as your mother. I was concerned about the time away from home, how you would fit in socially, how you would maintain your school work and frankly, I worried about your ability to keep up. I knew in my heart you would be going from top of the heap, to bottom of the barrel, and I worried how it would effect your confidence.
What I didn't expect was the backlash we received from other parents and dancers when you were chosen to move up over them. It was a very difficult few weeks after the change was made. I felt like every time you walked into that studio, you had a target on your back. There was a lot of gossip and back biting and down right tantrums from dance moms upset that a younger, less experienced dancer was moving to Company ahead of their own daughter. Every day I worried that we had made the right decision. Every day I prayed for you as I wiped tears away from my eyes each time I dropped you off. You seemed so young, so innocent and vulnerable, and I felt as if I were sending you into the lion's den.
But you, my sweet girl, never looked back. "Mom", you would say "I didn't ask to be moved up...they asked ME. Obviously they think I can do this".
And you were right. I have never seen such poise and grace from such a young child. I was, and continue to be, humbled by your quiet confidence. While I grew angry and felt the need to defend you and retaliate with clever comebacks and putdowns, you simply went to work. Steady, determined, tenacious; you were all that and more. Not for one moment did you let the naysayers bring you down. You held your head high and just danced.
In October, you attended your first convention and competition with your new team. I was amazed at the growth I witnessed. Not only in your dancing, but in the maturity you possessed among the older girls. How they adore you. Awards fell on Halloween, which made it difficult for me attend. I was stunned to hear you'd won a scholarship which is a very prestigious honor. Yet, when I finally spoke with you on the phone to offer up my congratulations, you downplayed it, not wanting to hurt the feelings of the other girls in the car. Again you taught me the best way to behave.
The only downside to your dancing is the void I feel in your absence. I miss you. I miss your laughter and kindness in our home. I miss the twinkle in your bright blue eyes as you twirl around the kitchen telling me the details of your day. I miss your constant, unselfish help with the little boys. I miss you wanting to learn how to cook every night as I make dinner. I miss watching TV in my bed with you. I miss our girl time, and girls only errands, which may or may not include frozen yogurt or pedicures. Mostly I just miss the light and love that is my Rachel.
Some may say you are missing out on your childhood, but when I look at you and all that you have gained, I have to disagree. Not only are you growing more talented in your dance, but you possess a rare confidence that enables you to be kind, and loving, and refined. Your uncommon grace has touched me and you have taught me. The only person you compete against is yourself, always striving to become better. My wish for you my dear daughter, is that you can continue to have this gift your entire life. So much time is wasted when we worry about what others are doing or saying. How lucky you are, how brilliant you are, to figure this out at such a tender age.
And when you come home late at night, with callouses and torn skin upon your toes. I will be here waiting and watching you with love and admiration.