Thursday, October 16, 2008

Chinese Ballet

What happens when a mother charges $45 in dance accessories and decides to pay for a week of dance instead of paying her credit card bill? Her kid gets kicked out of class for dicking around with her best pal. So goes our luck…

Here’s a little background on dance. My good friend Carol started her first adoption the same time I got pregnant with Cohen. It took three years for her referral to go through, but this July she went to get her 3 ½ year old daughter, Molly. I watched Molly a few days a week over the summer. We wanted our daughters to have a summer companion, and of course hoped they would become friends. This was Cohen’s first time having a friend. She has had many day care and park “associates,” but never anyone that I could promise her she would be seeing again.

At the beginning of the fall Carol made other arrangements for Molly as I began to buckle down into my school work and grad school preparations. We made it a point to get together at least once a week so the girls could see each other. I decided to sign Cohen up for Molly’s Chinese ballet class at the Chinese dance school. We meet there weekly and then go to dinner or a park.

The dance class has been a trying experience from the very beginning. The first time that I took Cohen she was so excited to see Molly that she ran right into the class room and played with her until class began. She participated for the first 15 minutes and then realized that she had lost me.

At this studio there is no window where the kids can see the mommies watching – the mothers sit on tiny preschool chairs in a room hidden behind an observation mirror. This means we can see the kids but they have no way of seeing us. This would not have been so problematic had I gotten a chance to point this room out to Cohen before she took off to dance with her friend. For the next 20 minutes I sat in that tiny blue chair, knees buckled under a tiny grey table watching my daughter scream bloody murder. I was assured that I was not needed. The director had it under control as she carried Cohen around inside the studio trying to regain her interest – a transparent attempt to ensure our enrollment. Finally I went in. I decided it was not for anyone else to tell me when my kid needs me, at this point in the game Coco and I have an official understanding.

Carol and I discussed Cohen's meltdown later. She suggested that Cohen being the
minority for the first time in her life may be a factor I should consider. It was a Chinese ballet class filled with little Chinese girls. They were all dressed in pink. I dressed Cohen in black. She was the equivalent of what the ugly ducking would have been had he stayed with the flock and screamed and pecked at the leader. Still, I decided that at 2 ½ she doesn’t distinguish Chinese kids from White kids anymore than she distinguished the Backyardigans from the Wonder Pets. I took her back today.

I was nervous because we were late and I have laryngitis, which meant there would be no time to reassure her of the situation. I could not re-explain the mirror. I was just going to have to shove her through the door and hope for the best.

She grasped the concept of the observation mirror now and took me at my word that I would be watching from the other side. She jumped right into class, just as she had last week. I watched and waited for the meltdown – half hoping she would have it in the first fifteen minutes so I could pack her up and leave without having to pay. But the meltdown never came. Instead she participated. She followed instructions. Here I am again in the tiny chair watching my kid who 2 hours earlier couldn’t figure out how to just sit still while I changed her diaper. Now she is lying on her belly, arching her back and pulling her ankles toward the back of her head for a stretching exercise. There she goes “chasse”ing up and down the length of the room, complete with head held high and hands on her hips. She was amazing. She really did things I didn’t know she was capable of doing. And then she got distracted.

Ten minutes until the end of class she and Molly decided it was more fun to visit than participate. Had the teacher had an assistant instead of trying to man a class with 10 toddlers on her own, the behavior could have easily been corrected. Instead she stopped the music, brought Carol and I our daughters and apologized that they could not remain in class any longer.

Seriously. A couple of toddlers get kicked out for not being able to focus on one adult in a sea of 10 children after 45 minutes of successful participation? If it sounds like I am rationalizing why I wasn’t going to pay… I was. And I didn’t.

We gathered up our little rebels and packed them out into the parking lot. I whisper (in what I have for a voice) that it is a good thing Carol and I were there. This is obviously the point in our daughters’ lives where had they come to class unsupervised they would certainly start smoking in the parking lot outside of Chinese ballet and inevitable promiscuity would follow.

1 comment:

Ryan Ulysses Marshall said...

Oh My GOD!!! I am glad you are writing again. The image you painted of Cohen in black mixed in with the other girls was just beautiful. Man, I wish I could have been there.

You need to add the "followers" gadget so I can add you blog and get updates instead of clicking on it like a psychotic all the time.

I posted some big news today. Can't wait to hear your voice.