Fair warning, this is going to be a long one.
Okay, so if you were nosy and ready my profile, you know already that my DS (who is 11 as of the time of this writing) is my home schooled dancer. Oooh boy let me tell you. Being the mom of a male dancer is one of the most rewarding things ever. BUT, also one of the hardest especially when it comes to testing your self control. Why you ask?
First and foremost, we live in the south. Which I love. Been here for most of my life and so it is home. But, it is also home to some of the most narrow minded people sometimes. I’ve lost count how many times I’ve been asked “Aren’t you worried about making him gay?” Um. No. Not at all. First off, dance has nothing to do with ones’ sexual preferences. Secondly, how is putting on tights and doing a lot of physical activity going to determine his sexual preferences. I mean give me a break, football and baseball players both wear something very similar (male dancer tights are NOT like girls, they are much thicker and heavier spandex *think 80s biker shorts*), but unlike organized sports players, my son spends most of his class/rehearsal time with a bunch of girls. In nothing but leotards and tights. Now they are all sweating their collective butts off, and stretching themselves into poses that would probably land me in the hospital for a week, but he is with girls. Not in tights, with a bunch of guys, slapping each other on the butt. Now, before you start railing against me about sports playing kids, I’m not saying football is going to make your son gay. What I’m saying is how can you pick an activity and say it’s going to make mine that way? Thirdly, DS has a very big love of petite blondes, so no, I’m not worried about his sexuality. And lastly, he’s my son. Period. Who I will love forever, no matter what.
The next question that blows my mind. “Does your husband know?” No of course not, I’ve been secretly taking my son to dance classes for 8 years, and have managed to hide all the costumes, tights, dance shoes, days when we’re gone all day for rehearsals and/or performances, etc etc. Wow really?!? I don’t know about your marriage, and mine definitely isn’t perfect, but there is no way I could hide something like this, nor would I want to. So, there is usually a follow up question to this one, depending on how well they know DH, it goes something like this “And he’s okay with it?”. *bangs head against the wall* Okay. *sigh* again, really!?!? Okay here’s the deal. We support our kids. When our DD danced, we were right in the thick of it. DS dances because of her, he just decided that “dancing is his life” (to paraphrase DS himself). DD has decided that although dance wasn’t for her, theater is, especially backstage. As parents (because, shockingly enough we do this parenting thing together), we both agree that we will support DS in his dancing for as long as he wants to do it. Which, as it looks now, will be a very long time.
Now, don’t get me wrong. This life as a mom of a dancer isn’t sunshine, roses and lollipops. No where near. It’s hours spent at the studio (thank GOD for my Daddy, who is right in the thick of everything too. I mean in it. Classes, rehearsal, backstage, and sewing dance wear and costumes); hours and hours at the theater (seriously, the security there know me on sight); debates over shoes, tights, costumes, haircuts; stress over foot pain, eating enough and eating right; constant stretching… Truly it’s endless. Then, there’s the other moms, other dancers, issues in dressing rooms and backstage (I’ll get into that in another post). Literally, some weeks, the closer to shows and recitals especially, EVERYTHING is scheduled around dance. So, yes, it’s HARD. There are days, the thought of getting in the car again to go back to the studio makes me cringe. But….
Then there is the good side. The look on DS’ face when he comes out of a ballet class that probably would have a lot of people passed out on the floor; he’s red faced, sweaty, exhausted, sore, but has the biggest grin. Just this week, as they are working on choreography for their May recital, he comes out grinning, “Mom! That was FUN!” The look when he finally “gets it”. When that tour jete’ is landed the first time. When that slide in tap takes him exactly where he wants to go and he doesn’t fall at the end. When he learned to do toe stands in tap. When his private lesson teacher tells me (with him standing there) “I’m seeing a LOT of improvement.” Not to mention the days I get the email from the Company Manager of the ballet company he works with (and has been on stage with since he was 4) that says “The following dancers have been hand selected to perform in our next production.” It’s a good thing I am usually at home when I read those, the fist pumping, squealing, jumping and up and down momma would probably get some strange looks in public. Watching rehearsals, and seeing him dance, learning the basics to partnering this time around, with such a look of concentration, but such a grin. Takes me back to when he was 5 and we watched a snow scene rehearsal for Nutcracker, and he looked up at me and said “momma, I wanna pick up the girls like the big boys do.” Don’t worry, he’s not picking them up yet, but the way time is flying these days, it will be here soon enough.
Now, the other side of all this. The “dark side” so to speak. You would think, mom’s of the male dancers would be this tight knit little group, right? No. We’re not. It’s still a competitive world, even if the “pool” is smaller. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying we all hate each other. Quite the contrary. I had a lovely dinner last night, and conversation by text today with one of the moms. We’ve also known each other longer than most (our two boys are the oldest and have been dancing the longest). But, I think there is the problem. DS has been dancing for over 8 years now. He first put ballet shoes on when he was not quite 3 years old. In 2005. This is our 9th season. So yes, he’s gotten a lot of roles over the years. Yes, our director, company manager, costume mistress, ballet mistresses, etc all know both of us on a first name basis. Because we’ve been there. Nearly every show. And, I’m on stage sometimes, and if not, I’m backstage. I haven’t seen my son from the front, performing (except for recitals)… um… ever. Which is my choice. And I’m okay with it. When he was the changeling child in “A Mid Summer Night’s Dream” in the Spring of 2011, I had to be backstage with him, he was only 8 years old. Kids that young aren’t allowed to be backstage by themselves, and since he was the only child in that show, it was on me. lol. The rest of the time, I choose to be back there. Sometimes because I’m in the show, sometimes because he’s been the only boy and so there aren’t a lot (*cough* any) of volunteers to be with him. But, I do my best to not hover, and, especially lately a lot of shows we do I’m in my own dressing room preparing and other adults are “in charge” of the boys, so although I’m there, at the theater, I’m no where near where he is. I can get into the “dark side” more in another post, I don’t want to digress too much here.
All this being said, my life is full of tights, ballet flats, tap shoes, schedules, sore feet, sore muscles, tears of frustration and tears of joy, but most of all love. Love for something 10 years ago, I barely knew anything about. Love for people I never would have met otherwise. Most of all, love for my little man, my little dancer! Smile on everybody!