Is it weird to look at every impromptu, aimless leg extension that my daughter executes a potential future in ballet? That the incessant pointing of her little forefinger is an indicator of keeping time while soon tap dancing? That her rhythm, steadily flaring every day, will point to a love of jazz choreography?
This mom can dream.
Jai recently showed that she can do a little something when prompted, and it delighted me, especially because I caught her uninhibited on camera. Her current move of choice, affectionately dubbed “Working the Shoulders” by the hubs, looks reminiscent of the “Pee-wee Herman” dance from the ’80s. Initially, her shoulders shrug up and down, then her body convulses into a swinging of the arms alternated with a clapping of the hands followed by some kind of awkward leg shake stance. It’s funny and darling and just…has me starry-eyed.
The only commitment my daughter would make before recently was to a trademark scowl and a disinterest in mommy’s attempts to make her laugh, so this is all so new.
Jrue, on the other hand, has been an enthusiastic “smiler” (and dancer) practically since he could hear music in the womb. The headphones on my pregnant belly became the headphones sat loosely around his little head as he laid, propped on a pillow, eyes wide or sleepy shut. We documented his irresistible headphone orientation on shirts for our immediate family one Christmas in a fictional clothing line we named “Jrue Wear.” As a seven-month-old, he mastered a bebop we called the “Creep Dog,” an aggressive, syncopated rock on all fours that he would enact for 10 minutes straight. YouTube dad La Guardia Cross calls it “Toddler Hips.”
As he aged, Jrue’s frolic became more synchronized, purposeful, and measured. Meanwhile, daddy’s fun made-up songs became more organized and elaborated, just as my sister married a music producer. Together, my brother-in-law and the hubs created “Cool Man Hat” and “Cool Man Hat, the Remix,” from which Jrue still chants inspiration. This even excludes the music classes and the music blasting through our house each morning.
The male kid loves music, and it’s easy to see why.
We are so Disney. I love us.
Now, Jai is displaying a keenness, which is just fabulous to me. I do not, however, look to make my children clones of one another. In no way do I want to force music or dancing onto either of them, the same way I wouldn’t force sports or computer science or curing cancer. The magical thing is that their ownership of engagement is happening so naturally that the hubs and I have agreed to work around their incumbent joys. The same happens when Jrue wants to paint or Jai wants Cheetos: Their apparent happiness in the moment is enough to incentivize us to provide an outlet, no matter how minuscule, for a likely passion.
Honestly, when I found out that Jai was a girl, I gasped at the opportunity to be a “ballet mom,” a “cheerleader mom,” and a “gymnastics mom” as equally as I entertained “room mom,” “basketball mom,” and “science fair mom,” amongst others on a long list, almost three years prior. Jai still has years before dance eligibility and could completely reject dancing after a single class, which I am prepared for.
What makes me so twinkly, though, is that I can imagine so much for her. Yes, it lives in the possibility of going to a ballet studio again after decades of my own exit. But, additionally, when Jai hands me “food” or gives me a sticky note to “answer” as a phone, I eat and speak without questioning. When it’s circle time with our plush friends in her bedroom, I am the first to introduce myself as, “Hi, I’m Mommy,” to which the stuffed animals and guests reply, “Hiii, Mommy.” Eventually, we’ll both sit down to tea. We’ll beautify our nails. We’ll rescue Barbie and Ken from the burning building. We’ll dunk the ball in the game-winning shot.
As she sleeps, I dream up my little girl’s preschool moving-up ceremony and her fifth grade graduation and her high school graduation celebration cookout. I dream of ponytails and haircuts and the day she comes home with green or purple braids. Someday, she will give me a fridge of artwork, then a fridge of “A” papers, then a mantel holding a college degree. She will be my baby, then hate me, then miss me, then be my best friend, all linearly, all sooner than later.
I want all of that for Jai. I want her to live her best, sweetest life.
Eventually, she might, just might, look back at me from the barre after grand plies, black leotard too big and pink tights just right, and wave. Ballet may bind us and give mommy and daughter a shared experience that I won’t have with the hubs or with Jrue. She will glow.
It’s something about that mental image itself that just makes me want to melt into the floor.