What did you do yesterday? My Saturday mornings have changed a bit of late. My daughter, ever the girly-girl, has recently started ballet and I often take her.
It’s not a bad deal, I kiss her goodbye at the studio door and then sit down and do some reading or writing for forty-five minutes. This is a very rare and precious thing called ‘free time‘. I vaguely recall having lots of it once, but like hair I took it for granted and now they both are increasingly less abundant in my life.
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Like the Saturdays before I carried the little one from the car to the studio because ballet shoes are, in her words, “very special” and she has decided that they can only touch the timber floor of the studio and definitely not the gravel of the car park. So be it.
We got inside and I pried open the door of the studio, little ballerina in one hand and laptop in the other. Now, normally when I do this there are two things I see: 1) two dance teachers and 2) the other girls surrounding the teachers like little pink, fluffy ducklings.
Yesterday, however, I saw something that was a) different and b) somewhat terrifying.
You know the look an introvert has when asked to give a speech? Well, imagine giving the aforementioned introvert giving an impromptu speech in front of a few hundred people on a topic they know nothing about: that was probably my expression. In fact, I think I stopped mid-step and nearly fell into the room when I saw what was happening. Surrounding the little pink ducklings, all resplendent and beaming, were the mother ducks that had turned up today to participate in the daughter-parent lesson. And now there I was, half way through the door, and I was being asked if I was going to join them as well.
The next forty-five minutes, I’ll admit, are a bit of a blur. I can say with all honesty that I was the best male dancer in the room. Of course, I was the only one; it was me, my little girl, and a bunch of mums and daughters.
I wondered at times where the other fathers were. But such was the frenetic pace of the lesson and my attempts to follow it that I barely had time to direct any real resentment towards them. So, I stretched, pointed and skipped around that little studio with my daughter and did my best not to feel self-conscious. We did first-position with some jumps, some lovely floor work which involved resting on our knees and moving our arms around like birds (‘Soft hands girls, soft hands’ the teacher would remind us) and some stretching, the most amusing to watch me do most likely being the one where we were on our stomachs and had to arch our backs so that our head might reach our toes. The young teacher looked like a graceful swan basking in the sun when she demonstrated.
I looked like a turtle trying to lick something off its shell.
In the midst of all those positions and movements against which my body protested there came, however, a familiar feeling. A feeling that I had experienced on the sporting field and thought I had long since lost from my personality – my desire to be competitive and ‘good’ at what I was doing. Here I was, a 33-year-old father, with my three and a half year old daughter, participating in a one-off ballet lesson in which I had no prior skills or learning, and I wanted to be good.
I made sure I didn’t miss my cue, I kept count (one-and-two-and-three-and-four-) and did my best to remember the choreography (but we just called it ‘chori’ like they do on So You Think You Can Dance). I must say, I blossomed under the encouragement from Miss What’s-her-name and after a while I seemed to be standing taller, shoulders back and walking with that lazy saunter that ballet dancers have as they while away the few minutes in their lessons between routines and exercises.
And then, as abruptly as it started, it was over.
The lesson ended; all the girls did a curtsy and I bowed to the teacher. My shoulders returned to their normal position, I picked up my shoes from the floor along with the discarded and forgotten laptop and stood in line to get my gold sticker, along with the rest of the girls and their mums.
That was Saturday morning. Only six more days till the next one.
Tim Murray is a father of two who writes about the busy, enjoyable and sometimes bizarre world of being a parent and anything else that takes his interest. He writes for his website www.grinandreadit.com.
Have you got a favourite activity to do with your kids?