Mgazi has ballet class at her school every Wednesday afternoon. Every Tuesday night, I put her leotard and ballet slippers into her backpack in preparation for the next day’s class. To be honest, I’m successful at this only about 50% the time. The other half of the time I forget completely. This results in Mgazi having to take class wearing her school clothes and socks -- something I know she doesn’t appreciate because she complains bitterly. Apparently it’s not easy to plié in jeans.
So, I had the brilliant idea of putting the ballet supplies in her backpack and instructing her to leave them there all week long. That way, they’d always be handy and I wouldn’t forget to pack them the night before class. I reasoned that she only wears the leotard for 25 minutes at a time anyway. She could wear it each and every class and I probably still wouldn’t have to wash it! Should I wash it? Of course! But do I HAVE to? It’s a judgment call. I chose to be kind to the environment and do as the hotels do -- only launder what was left for me balled up on the bathroom floor.
My approach seemed to be working. Mgazi stopped complaining. I promptly forgot there was ever an issue.
Last week, I got a note from the ballet instructor informing me that Mgazi’s class would be giving an end-of-year “informal performance” at the school the following Wednesday. I’d been to these performances before. The parents gather in a hot room and proceed to ooh, aah, and sweat as their children skip, hop, run, and gallop, much like they do in their own backyard (without the aid of paid instruction). But in ballet they do it while pointing their toes.
I googled the definition of performance. It is an act of staging or presenting a play, concert, or other form of entertainment. What I was going to endure the following week can in no way be considered a performance.
Furthermore, the ballet instructor suggested that parents bring a flower or token of support for each child. I’m sorry, can someone please explain? A token for what exactly? According to the note: for the children's efforts! I’d seen other parents bring their children (and the other children in the class) flowers or leis or candy in previous years. I’d never done it. Because I considered it unnecessary. My child is only doing what she does each and every Wednesday afternoon from 3 o’clock until 3:25. The only difference is that I’m there to witness it in all its informal glory while sweat drips down the crack of my ass. This performance isn’t something she’s been working toward. It’s not something she’s excited about. There is no accomplishment to celebrate. Essentially, I’m giving my five-year old accolades for participating in a class that she asked to attend and I agreed to overpay for. “Good for you, Gazi! You attended class! You deserve a flower!”
Resentful that I would now have to purchase tokens for the entire class, I did what I usually do in these situations -- I filed the note under “things to deal with at the last minute” and went about my day.
Tuesday night rolled around and I decided it was time to wash Mgazi’s leotard. I opened her backpack and found it filled to the brim with, as my mom would say, everything but the kitchen sink. I found head bands, shredded paper, three markers (and only one cap, not attached to a marker, of course), a squished banana, two unmatched and dirty socks (one of which was Russell’s), and last but not least, one single ballet slipper. There was no sign of her leotard or the slipper’s mate.
“Mgazi, where is your ballet stuff?”
“I don’t know.”
We turned the house upside down. Searched every little nook and cranny. We found the second slipper in a drawer – how long had it been there? We didn’t find her leotard. Evidently, it walked off on its own accord – probably out of protest of some sort.
“Mgazi, how long has your leotard been missing?”
“A long time.”
“Child, did it not occur to you to say something to me?”
It was too late to buy another leotard that night. I would have to leave work early the next day, buy her a new one, and drop it off at school before her class.
Argh in a bucket.
The next day, performance day, I rushed to the store and bought Mgazi a black leotard, switching it up from the usual pink. The note from the ballet instructor failed to mention how many children were actually in the class so I took an educated guess and purchased fifteen flowers.
I arrived at school early, some parents milling about, clutching roses and candy leis. I couldn’t help but announce how I resented buying their kids Gerber daisies simply for attending ballet class. Of course, I followed this quickly with a second announcement: they shouldn’t have to buy my kid anything either. A nearby father started laughing and couldn’t stop, which only encouraged me to rant more. His wife smiled but tried to hide it. A woman next to her was horrified by my brazen distaste for the whole business and shot me a glance full of brazen distaste for me. A third mom, whose daughter is in the same class as Zaffy, held her hands out toward me, Price-is-Right style and exclaimed, “Ladies and Gentleman, I introduce to you, Room 1-10’s Class Parent!” With an embarrassed bow -- I’m a pretty lame Class Parent -- I excused myself to deliver the leotard to Mgazi, tags still attached.
Mgazi’s teacher was surprised to see me enter their classroom. I quickly explained that I had realized yesterday that Mgazi had been attending ballet without the proper attire. She replied, “Yes, it’s been that way for a couple of months now.”
Ummmm. “Teacher, did it not occur to you to say something to me?”
She didn’t respond… probably because I only said it in my head.
Mgazi accepted the leotard without so much as a smile and asked, “Can I quit going to ballet?”
“No, you may NOT quit ballet,” I told her (out loud) and popped her on the head with the Gerber daisies before realizing that might not be my smartest move with the teacher still in the room. Shamed, I took my leave.
Russell met me at the performance space. No stage… just a dojo with no air conditioning and windows so high off the ground that any feeble breeze that manages to enter the room only floats around uselessly above our heads. After ten minutes of idle chitchat with the other parents (on Russell’s part) and energetic complaining to the other parents (on my part), sixteen children entered the dojo prepared to dazzle us with their dancing skills.
What followed was ten minutes of nothing that resembled ballet. But the children had fun. Especially when they found themselves showered with flowers and candy for doing little more than roaming aimlessly about the room pointing their toes.
Oh. I forgot to mention, fifteen of the children were wearing pink leotards with frilly skirts and matching pink ballet slippers. The sixteenth child, my own, the one who would NOT be getting a Gerber daisy from her mother, wore a black leotard that was two sizes too small and was so tight it strained to cover her bottom. I can’t help but wonder how many of the adults in attendance think Room 1-10's Class Parent sent her child to ballet class wearing a thong.
Recommended wine: Today I'm going to recommend Ballet of Angels, a favorite wine of folks in New England. According to its website it is a bright, crisp, and semi-dry white wine with an impressive floral bouquet. I have yet to try it, but I find no reason to doubt the good folks of New England. I can imagine that a glass or two of Ballet of Angels will help ease my guilt at having contributed so heavily to my child's growing sense of entitlement. I'm going to have to find a way to get my hands on a bottle. You can orded it from Suburban Wines & Spirits but I can't stomach the $35 shipping fee to Hawaii!
P.S. I want to be very clear. I do not intend to insult or otherwise disrespect Mgazi’s ballet instructor. She obviously loves children, is extremely talented, and extraordinarily patient. I bow down to her.
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