Dirty Dancing: A Lesson in Managing Expectations

On Thursday nights my two oldest daughters take dance class from our local dance studio. It is literally within two miles of my house. It occupies my girls for an hour and a half. They love to dance. I love the studio. So WHY do I hate dance nights so much?

I think at least 75% of if has to do with the expectations I came in with. As a former cheerleader who had danced as a kid, and a former high school cheer coach, I had a vision of what kind of dance mom I would be. This is something I love. I guess I had a vision of my girls showing up with cute dance bags and coordinated outfits. Styled hair and cute bows. Adorable athletic outerwear. Maybe a water bottle with a catchy dance slogan.

These pictures are obviously from the dance recital. Surprisingly, I don’t have any pictures of their normal dance night insanity!


We actually show up at the dance studio like a group of stray cats that have just run for their lives from animal control and have swept into the studio out of breath, dirty, hair all askew, looking like we have no business being in public. It is in the somewhat quiet waiting area of dance that my youngest likes to grab himself and yell “I have to go potty!!!!” He’s been potty trained for over a year. There are no true emergencies anymore. He just likes that they have a tiny potty….I know this because I have taken him to the bathroom EVERY TIME WE GO to dance. Even if we are just dropping the girls off and only in the actual building for ten minutes at max and returning to our home (which we came straight from) immediately. Sometimes he asks to go twice.

It is in the dance studio that my oldest daughter, one of the dancers, tromps in wearing capri pants and cowboy boots and a sleeveless leotard, with the hood of her coat on her head and the coat flapping behind her like a cape. It’s like she has never been outside. Her coat cape is the closest I can get to weather-appropriate. It doesn’t matter if she has just had me braid or style her hair before leaving the house…her hood leaves her looking like she’s just come in from a wind storm.

My 7 year old is my fancy daughter. She likes looking stylish and matching. She likes cute outfits and fun hairdos. Every other day of the week. On dance night she comes downstairs in a bizarre combination of leotards and pants and a look that says “don’t even comment, mom, you totally don’t understand me.”  But last night was a new low.  I looked down at her ankles as she got ready for tap class.  She was wearing white athletic socks (because she refuses tights since I suggested them) and both her socks and her ankles are caked in mud.  Why?  Why do we have to be that family?

The icing on the cake last night was my 9 year old rule-following son sitting on the opposite side of the waiting room from the rest of us.  (I don’t blame him…I’d pretend I didn’t know us, too) but he didn’t just sit quietly.  He would yell out “Mom!” to alert me that the 3 year old was being a weirdo.  I know, son, I know!  I see the same weird behavior you see.  I am hoping that no one else will notice if we don’t draw attention to him running and jumping into a split and yelling about the bathroom.  I don’t need your judgement, 4th grader!

Only the live version of this photo does justice to the dance night craziness…

I think the thing I forgot, when I picured myself as the leader of a family of organized, coordinating, pulled together kids sitting quietly and stretching in preparation for their dance instruction, is that I also pictured myself as a mom who lets her kids play outside even in the rain, for as long as possible, right until the moment we need to leave.  And a mom who taught her daughters that their appearances weren’t the most important thing about them and that I cared more about them being kind and loving.  I didn’t want to be the mom who wasted a perfectly good dance bag just because the strap broke…so my daughter’s frayed dance bag has a strap precariously tied to the zipper pull so if she unzips the bag everything immediately drops to the floor.  So I guess I got what I wanted.  A little bit of all of that.  On full crazy display on Thursday nights at the local dance studio.  I guess we can’t have it all.  Maybe we could try for clean ankles next week though.