The ballet studio’s year-end dance recitals aren’t new to us, thanks to Sam’s enthusiastic desire to join every single one of them (in true, Peacock nature). And yet every year, there’s still always a first time experience — or two! — that comes with it. Ah, the parenting roller coaster indeed.
This was Sam’s first recital in California, but being our seasoned performer, she just took it all as she always does. The exciting part about it was that her group got invited to perform on the Disney Performing Arts stage at California Adventure!
It was pretty exciting even for me, as I got to be a parent who got to go backstage and see a little bit of Disney’s behind the scenes. Unfortunately they banned any kind of photo whatsoever (they said they wanted to ensure that everyone’s memory of Disney is the way they see it at the parks. Imagine that!) Only the performers were given free passes into the park, so it was thanks to those Annual Passes that we were all able to go in and watch her. Sam says it was a “dream come true” to be considered a cast member even for just a few hours.
Speaking of firsts, it was Jamie’s first ballet recital too! She was finally old enough to participate. She didn’t want to at first, but Sam convinced her by saying “It’ll be great — Daddy will give you flowers!“, and with that, Jamie instantly changed her mind.
She enjoyed every minute of it, and despite being the smallest and the youngest in the group, she had no qualms about performing and smiling on stage.
I got many compliments after from members of the audience and the teachers and parents backstage about how it seemed she knew exactly what to do, and exactly where to look. I’m always worried because Jamie is a Dove, and can be self-conscious and timid at times, but that didn’t seem to be the case here. Well, she’s proven me wrong before. I forget her intrapersonal intelligence is her strongest innate intelligence so that must be what comes into play.
What followed Jamie’s decision to participate was another first: I volunteered to be a backstage “group mom”. It made perfect sense to me because both girls would be backstage and I was driving them to and from recitals as well. Plus as I mentioned, I was worried about not being around Jamie. Maybe it was more my fear than hers, but all the same I put my name down.
The ballet studio we joined had a similar curriculum to that of our old ballet studio in Manila, so I was familiar with the drill of multiple dance rehearsals, long hours, hair and make-up and all that came with it. The big difference was, the production here was put on by a few teachers and a whole bunch of parent volunteers.
I learned (as the practices and days went by), that the job of a Group Mom isn’t exactly a walk in the park. I was assigned to Jamie’s group of six girls, along with another first time group mom. We had the smallest group to handle, and so while I was over-the-moon stressed, some of the seasoned group moms said I “had it easy” (Hu-what?!).
The first and biggest bit of it was managing the kids. Our age group of 4-6 year olds was a bit of a challenge precisely because of that developmental stage they were in. The budding personalities and budding sense of independence yet co-dependence and desire to do everything the other was doing, drove me up the wall. They wanted to get dressed and undressed at their own schedules (which never really matched — plus we had to keep those costumes clean!), or sit anywhere else except on the mats we provided.
Taking these girls to the bathroom was also a chore, because they would always resist going and wait until the last minute when they couldn’t hold it anymore. This was always the time we had to get in line to get on stage.
They weren’t allowed to eat in their costumes either, which of course they did. As much as I had set aside the snacks to wait until we were back in our cover-ups (we’d also have to leave the room to eat), some of them knew exactly where I had them put their stuff and would just go for it.
Then there were the range of emotions and social conflicts, like pushing or sharing and separation anxiety from parents. We had to handle all of that too. Thankfully Jamie was as calm as ever. I supposed it helped because I was there and because she knew the dynamics of having me as an authority figure. The other kids had to learn as I had to learn and adjust to them as well.
The other half of being a group mom was managing the parents. Half of the parents had done this recital the year before so they kind of knew what to expect. But still, the young age of the group made them anxious about leaving their girls in the hands of a stranger — me. Some were overly anxious and were right there when we called to say practice was over earlier than expected. Then there were those that really didn’t care to follow or listen to instructions given. They would send their kids in costume when we said not to, or send chocolates as snacks when we’d said not to as well (It’s terribly hard to remove chocolate stains on costumes I tell you!).
Then there was the parent who couldn’t grasp the concept of her child staying through the whole recital, when she was only dancing for two minutes. Yes, I admit, this is my karma. Thankfully in my time, I had seasoned parents who walked me through it, and so I tried to be that for this particular mom as well. After all, this is what you sign up for. I don’t know if I was effective, or if it was because we really didn’t know each other all too well (she wasn’t at the weekly ballet classes), so it didn’t make much of a dent this year. They were still always late to practice, and always late to pick-up (which meant the girls and I couldn’t leave because we had to wait until all my five other girls had been picked up).
That whole experience gave me a new-found respect for preschool teachers.
Of course, it all worked out in the end.
Everyone was excited and the costumes, hair and make-up held up nicely too (considering I was running around the backstage after them with a hairspray bottle in one hand and q-tips with lipstick in another). Whatever spots or crumbs we weren’t able to remove weren’t noticed. The parents were all happy and grateful that they got their children back in five whole pieces with smiles on their faces. I still needed a tall glass of wine after though, but I’m glad things worked out well and I was glad it was over.
Before we left, one of the other group moms came to me and said, “Don’t worry, it’ll be better next year when they’re older.”
“Once a group mom, always a group mom,” she said as she walked away.
When she said it, I couldn’t imagine doing it again. Although after I’d had my glass(es) of wine, I completely understood.
Cheers to next year! 😉