Around here, most recreational activities that children can participate in have their youngest lot signing up at age four, which makes Norah eligible for nearly anything she’d like to try. Our first attempt to expose to her to the wide world of participation came last fall when we signed her up for the Mebane Youth Soccer Association. You may recall a post about this boasting a photo of a soccer loving little girl in shinguards and noting near the end that “Norah thus far seems to love it.” Though I’m not exactly sure at what point in the season that post was written, my guess is sometime around practice number one, and definitely before game number one, because let’s just say I was totally wrong. As noted in the post, it was indeed appealing for its newness, excitement, and accompanying attire, but when it came to actually playing soccer, Norah’s enthusiasm died faster than you can say GOOOOOOOOAAAAALLLLLLLLL! A typical game consisted of about 40 minutes of us begging, bribing, reasoning, comforting, scolding, negotiating, threatening, and fighting the urge to bicycle kick her into the farthest net (what?! we’d never do that), and about 10 minutes of her actually playing, during which time she looked sort of happy? It would be easy to say that she just isn’t into soccer, but deeper digging leads us to believe that a) Pete being her coach made her less likely to listen (go figure) and b) every other kid on the team was a good six months older than her and therefore faster and more experienced. It sounds sort of silly to say “more experienced” when speaking of little girls playing soccer, but we truly do believe that her inability to keep up dampened her enthusiasm. Of course our hope is that one day she’ll use this feeling of inadequacy to drive her to overcome the odds, but at 4 we are lowering our expectations regarding the power of adversity. We made it to the end of the season, but I won’t say the experience as a whole was a delightful one. That said, now that several months have passed, she has expressed interest in trying again, and we’ll gladly give it another go this fall, just with a team coached by someone else’s dad.
After the soccer season came the holidays which were plenty distracting from any efforts we might make to find the next activity, but as the new year rolled in and we had more space, we refocused on finding a class or team for Norah to join. The answer was quickly obvious as we observed the almost nightly hallway escapades to the tune of a series of Vevo videos of the latest pop songs – dance class! The Elder children (and parents) loooooooooove to dance, especially in our pajamas at home at night. I’m sure a number of passers-by have watched us through the undressed windows of our kitchen and wondered what fun was happening inside, as the height of said windows only reveals the taller two of us prancing and marching around, and our tiny dancers cannot be seen. Crazy neighborhood shows aside, a proper dance experience seemed timely, so I posted to the ‘ol Facebook asking for recommendations and quickly had guidance on the local scene.
We chose a studio in Graham that was favored by a few friends and offered a mini session for the folks that wanted to try it before they truly buy it, if you will. That’s not to say it’s free, but simply that it’s less money, less classes, less obligation, in order to get a feel for things before making the big commitment to what’s referred to as the dance “season.” Much to Norah’s disappointment, you don’t get the reward of a recital at the end of mini session, but she understands this is a stepping stone. During our discussions of such she politely requested that I find pictures on the internet of recital costumes so that she might pick the one she would like to wear when that day comes. I obliged on the photos and explained the small misunderstanding she had of the process, but she remained optimistic.
Then came February, the stupidest fucking month ever (except for the birthdays of all the people I love!!) and the first two of her classes were canceled due to inclement weather. Class number three happened while mom and I were away in Florida, and Pete opted to avoid the still icy roads, so once again, no class. On Thursday March 12th, she FINALLY got to go and from the moment I arrived home from work until the moment the door to her dance room opened indicating it was time to go in, Norah was over the moon excited about her new adventure. I quite specifically mention the moment that door opened because that was when she lost it. “I don’t want to go in without you. I’m scared. I’m nervous. I don’t want to do it alone. I’m embarrassed. What if I can’t do it? I don’t know how to dance!” This went on for a good ten minutes, her clinging to me, me balancing between comforting encouragement and frustrated forcefulness, the teacher trying to help, the other parents staring. Everything about it felt awful, but she eventually accepted her fate, and walked into the room. I closed the door and proceeded to sit on a chair with trembling hands and racing heart just waiting for her to come busting out balling. Minutes passed, the door stayed closed, I calmed down, I dared to go to the bathroom despite her plea that I stand right outside the entire time, and at 7:45 when class was officially over, a beaming 4.5 year old emerged from the room in her pink leotard and ballet slippers, full of satisfaction and pride. OMFG THANK YOU.
The following week she was an old pro – not a moment of hesitation when it was time to go into class and zero signs of anxiety – just straight up swagger like I got this guys (Pete and Cros came too), just make sure you’re here in 45 minutes to drive me home. I’m relieved and proud and excited and just plain happy! She’s pretty darn proud of herself as well, and given the emotion surrounding this simple six week session of trying dance, I can only imagine the explosion of feelings we’re in for over the next 15 years as she and Crosby take on (and BEAST) the great wide world of activities.