I have taught dance to young children for over two decades. Through that time, I have seen the good, the bad, and the ugly, with an insider’s look at parenting trends through the years. The great news is, the end goal for parents is still the same - to have healthy, kind, well-adjusted children. I am fortunate to work with amazing families who truly support their child’s passion. I have seen a shift, however, in the way that parents express that support -- moving from bleacher cheerleaders to sideline coaches. Now this is certainly a generalization because no two parents are made alike, but in general, I have seen a huge shift in a parent’s need to “get in the game” along with their child. Never before have I had parents give so much input on what class their child should be in, what costume they should wear, which song they should dance to...the list goes on.
Now you can peek at any dance teacher facebook group to see the long list of complaints about how annoying it is to have our expertise questioned by parents. However, I tend to wake up on the brightside every morning and lean over to drink from a glass half full, so you aren’t going to see me jump on the bandwagon of bemoaning our fate as underappreciated dance teachers. The fact of the matter is, parents want to be involved because they love what their child is doing. They are excited about it, and they want to feel their opinion matters. All of these are good things! I do, however, wish that parents would give themselves a break every once in a while.
I’m a mom of four and boy do I feel like I’m expected to wear a lot of hats. I should be an organic chef, an expert on healing oils, a master party-planner - and that’s all in addition to my daily tasks of chauffeur, nurse, and chief bottle washer. Seriously people, it’s exhausting! And now, to top it off, I should be an expert on every activity my child picks up. Apparently, in order to be an involved parent, I should tell their piano teacher whether they should play Mozart or Bach, coach the perfect spiral on their football toss, and ponder the most pleasing shade of pink on their watercolor art -- no thank you! To be honest, my mom didn’t even know what song I was dancing to until she showed up at my recital and would have never dreamed of commenting on any part of my dance training. It was outside of her reach, and that was okay.
So here is my plea to parents on behalf of your child’s teachers, and on behalf of us moms out here just barely hanging on - you don’t have to be all things to all people. Choose teachers for your child who you respect for their knowledge and for their values. Then step back and trust them to do the work. Trust that if your child doesn’t advance to the next level that they will still be learning. Trust that if your child isn’t first chair in the orchestra that they are strong enough to handle setbacks. Trust that if someone else gets chosen for the lead in the school play that your child may have more fun in the chorus. Just trust.
So let’s make a pact to expect a little less of each other and ourselves. It’s okay to let teachers and coaches do their jobs and to reclaim your title as chief cheerleader. I’ll take a seat on the bleachers right there beside you. And if you feel the need to bring the organic snacks and bedazzle the signs, that’s okay. I’ll be the mom holding the cheetos I dug out from the bottom of my purse. I won’t judge if you don’t.