I am exceptionally proud of you.
It’s true – I always love you.
I know you’re beautiful inside and out.
I’m typically proud of you.
But today, I’m even more proud of you than usual.
Today was your first ballet recital. You were fantastic. You waved; you twirled; you smiled.
But I didn’t even know if you were going to go on stage at all.
You see, yesterday was dress rehearsal. We did your hair, did your makeup, put on your costume, went to the performance venue.
You played ring around the rosey with your friends (your idea).
You played Simon Says with them (also your idea).
I was so proud of your creativity and leadership.
You girls ran into a little snag when everyone wanted to be Simon at once.
I really wanted to step in and fix it for you, but I held back, and I watched you all work it out and take turns.
I was so proud of your kindness and problem-solving skills.
I watched you hold hands with friends and spin until you were dizzy and landed in a heap of tulle and glitter and flowers.
I didn’t even really mind if you got your pink show tights dirty, you were having so much fun.
I was so proud of your silliness and joy.
I watched as some other girls in your ballet class came and stood nearby, watching you four have so much fun.
And I saw you open up your little circle and grab the hands of each girl that came by, inviting them to come play with your group.
I was so proud of your empathy, friendliness and care for others.
Then a teacher, a big girl dancer from an older class, helped you all hold hands and get in line.
Then the blue-skirted, pink-toed, bun-topped line walked and giggled through the door, down the hall and around a corner to get ready for rehearsal.
I was so proud of your independence, knowing I’ll always be there when you need me, but you’re also ok without me, when you’re with friends and others who care about you very much.
I waited in the sparcely filled auditorium. Group after group of mini-dancers came and danced to Disney songs, from Beauty and the Beast to Anastasia to Pinocchio. Then, I saw some blue and sparkles on the side of the stage and knew your class was coming out next. I turned on the camera and strained to see you. One by one the girls walked out in two lines.
I didn’t see you.
I looked again, scanning every face, but you weren’t there.
“Oh no. They lost my daughter,” I thought, and I started to go up to the stage. Just then, the teacher came out and said, “G’s mommy?”
“Your daughter is not coming out. You can come backstage.”
I rushed up there, and I saw you crying. We tried to show you it was ok to dance, but you didn’t want to.
“I don’t want to be on stage,” you’d say again and again. “I just want to go home.” I hugged you tight, and said I’d wait right there on the side of the stage with your teacher. She said she would go out on stage and stay by you, and she even offered you a crepe paper pom pom to take home if you danced.
I took you off stage, and we sat and watched the other classes finish two more dances to close the rehearsal. The curtain closed, and I took your hand, and you and I walked across the empty stage. I could tell you still didn’t like it. Your body was tense, and you asked again to go home. We did.
We talked about what was making you afraid and how the audience was all mommies and daddies and families who love the dancers and how it didn’t matter if you were perfect, but only that you did your best. You didn’t want to talk much about it right then.
Your Mimi and Poppy were at our house watching your little sister. You told everyone how you didn’t go on stage.
You told Mimi you could choose what you wanted to do the next day for the real show (you were right), and you said you might just choose to do nothing. (And I would have loved you no matter what choice you made. No matter what, I will always love you).
I was sad. I didn’t know if I did something wrong that made you feel afraid.
Usually, you are a very confident girl.
It was one of the very rare times I saw you unconfident and nervous.
Of course, I wanted you to dance in the recital.
But that wasn’t my goal that day.
I wanted to help you overcome your fear.
Later that day you said you decided you were going to dance on stage. I reminded you that it would be your last chance for this year; there was only one show. We talked about if the nervous butterflies came into your belly, you could say, “God has not given me a spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and a sound mind.” (The first verse you ever memorized).
We talked about how it didn’t matter if you messed up or fell or sneezed and blew all the other dancers off stage (yeah, some imagined scenarios were more likely than others). The two things that mattered were if you do your best and if you do it for the glory of God. Then, we sang that song really loud together in the car (“Whatever you eat, or drink, or whatever you do, do it all to the glory of God… ohoh, ohoh…”). We talked about if the tears come, that you are the one who gets to control those tears, and you could tell them, “Stop, tears. Even if I’m a little afraid, I know I can do this.” And we talked about how you can do all things through Christ, who gives you strength.
You told me you wanted to dance on stage the next day.
You and I dropped our family off in the line at the auditorium the next day. I went back to the dancers’ area, and you giggled and spun and followed others in a “train” line until the line of blue tulle and sparkles gathered again, and the fluffy-skirted pre-schoolers walked back again through the hall and around the corner.
I met our family in the auditorium. The dancers all performed, and then I saw the blue-skirted sparkles tip-toe onto the sage.
And you were in the lead.
You got adjusted into the right spot.
You danced. BEAUTIFULLY.
And you walked off, smiling.
That’s the joyful, confident, leader I know.
You came out again for the finale, and I came to get you as you jumped off the stage and into my arms below.
I was so proud of you.
Yes, I was proud that you were a beautiful ballerina who danced on stage.
But I was more proud that you did something very important and hard to do – you overcame your fear.
I am proud because, unfortunately, it’s probably not the last time you’ll have butterflies in your belly or get nervous or get afraid.
And now, you know how to overcome it and how to shine beautifully, even if something is a little scary at first.
You told me you didn’t even have butterflies this time, and the tears never even started to come.
You weren’t afraid at all today.
You had fun.
This weekend, I hope I did a good job as a mommy – not to simply push you to do a three-minute dance to Winnie the Pooh music in a high-school auditorium – but to help you realize you do not need to fear, and even when those feelings start to come, you can look them straight on, decide if the fear is good (to keep you from getting hurt) or if it’s something you can overcome.
And then, you can overcome it.
I am so proud to watch you grow up (although, I’ve been really emotional lately, and I wouldn’t mind if you stay little for a while longer!).
You are a natural leader, wonderfully compassionate, an excellent friend, social, joyful, curious, smart, sweet, funny, creative, peacemaking, caring, always looking out for the interests of others, thoughtful, organized, sentimental, beautiful inside and out, and you have an excellent memory.
I’m proud of you for who you are.
I will always love you.
No matter what.
No matter if you mess up.
No matter if you fall down.
No matter if you’re afraid.
No matter if you’re sad and cry.
No matter if you sneeze and blow all the other dancers off the stage.
I will always love you.
You’ve taught me a lot this weekend too. I have to remember that when someone loves you, you should trust them.
I love you, and I always want what’s best for you, which is why I asked you to step out on that stage.
I knew it was the best thing for you this weekend, and if you didn’t do it, I know you’d regret it later.
I also know God loves me (and you!) very much – even more that I love you, which is hard to even imagine.
Since He loves me, He will never ask me to do something unless it is the best thing for me and that will bring Him glory.
I need to trust Him, because He loves me perfectly.
I also am not in control. I can control my actions and reactions, but I can’t control my circumstances or consequences or the actions of anyone else (including you, Daddy and your sister). I need to trust God with my family, because He loves you perfectly too.
I love you. I love you. I love you. No matter what. I never ever want you to forget that.
And I’m proud of you. Very proud of you.
I’m looking forward to seeing you grow (although you don’t have to grow too quickly, ok?).
I love being your mommy.