Thursday, December 26, 2013

Dance Class Update / Request for Advice

First off - I hope you all have been enjoying the holidays!!!  I will do a Christmas wrap up after I steal pictures from various family members.  We had a lovely (but extremely tiring) two days, and now Justin and I are both back to work.  Bleh.

As you may know based on all of the pictures I've posted on social media, Adriana has been taking tap and ballet since the fall.  I can't help it, tiny ballerinas are basically the cutest thing I've seen since baby porcupines became an internet sensation.  

I took tap and baton lessons when I was like 2-3, and didn't really miss it afterwards.  I once asked my mom why I didn't stick with it, and she explained that when my grandpa had his heart attack, we spent 8 months visiting him in the hospital so it wasn't like there was a lot of extra time to squeeze it in.  Fair enough - it was a crappy time for my family.  I played t-ball and soccer and I did gymnastics, swimming, and piano lessons at different times throughout grade school, so it's not like I didn't have enough activities to keep me busy.  Dance was only the teeniest part of my life, so I'm not really sure why I wanted to send Adriana (other than the fact that she LOVES to dance and is so girly I thought she'd love the costumes).

Dance started off great.  Sure, the place we sent her is super strict with their dress code and parents can only watch during observation week and recitals (there is no window or tv or any way to watch), but Adriana seemed to love it so all was well.  Until it wasn't.  About 6 weeks ago, Adriana was sent out of class because she was having a "tough time" and was asking for me.  The next week was tap class observation, and the week after that was ballet.  

Oh you guys, the observation weeks were ROUGH.  Adriana decided midway though tap that she was done participating and wanted to be a puppy instead, and started crawling around on the floor.  I called her over to us and sternly whispered for her to be a good listener, but she kept refusing to participate.  I finally made her sit down with us, and told her she would need to help me cheer for other kids and that I was proud of them for doing such a good job.  She quickly deduced that I would be proud of her too if she was participating, and reluctantly joined her classmates.  I was a bit embarrassed and a bit annoyed, but she cheered me up (and got some laughs from the room) by being so freaking adorable whenever she would randomly break into dance to no music.  (You should check out the video in my Instagram feed if you haven't seen it...too funny).

The next week was definitely lacking in cute moments.  It was A STRUGGLE.  This time she was a leopard, and was practically tripping her classmates as she crawled around the floor. At one point she openly stuck her tongue out at me.  This went on for what seemed like an ETERNITY.  I hate when the girls act up in public - it makes me feel like everyone is watching me and every move I make is being judged.  Since Adriana was being so disruptive and we were all in a small room, this feeling was probably much more accurate in this situation than if we were, say, in a grocery store. No amount of whisper yelling got her to listen or to get back in line, and she refused to sit on the bench with me like she did at the tap class observation.  The kids were still all trying to dance and I was worried that if I tried to carry her out of the room it would cause an even bigger scene than she was already causing, so I basically just froze up.  We ended up leaving the class a bit early, since she was done and clearly didn't want to be there, and since I was at my limit for having people stare at me while I completely ineffectively disciplined my kid.  

After that mess, the director of the school personally emailed me and asked how she could help.  It was very sweet of her, but honestly I didn't know what to say.  I told her that I was so sorry Adriana was being so disruptive, and that I felt bad for the other kids in the class who wanted to learn.  She offered switching classes, but this one was the only one that worked with our schedule (plus, if Adriana can't cooperate at 10 am on a weekend, she certainly wouldn't at 6 pm after a long day at daycare).  I also happened to run into Adriana's dance instructor one day while I was out shopping, and she told me that Adriana did amazing during the first couple of months of class, and that she is really good when she's in the mood to listen.  She suggested that we wait it out until winter break and then re-evaluate.

Which was a great idea, except that money was due the next week for the spring recital costumes.  I was not ready to make a decision about what to do so soon; I was thinking I had a few more weeks.  And of course, the day before the money was due Adriana got kicked out of class three times so we left early again.  It was not a good day.  She was participating, but she was being a holy terror while doing so...spitting on and kicking her classmates, and repeatedly yelling about poop.   Wonderful.

Up until that point I was really hoping to turn things around.  I know how much Adriana loves to dance, and how excited she was looking at the costumes.  I thought it would send her the wrong message if we just quit.  I wanted to show her that even though you might not like something all of the time, you stick to your commitments.  I also wanted her to learn that you have to show teachers and peers respect, even if you are having a tough day.  She always tells me that she just doesn't know HOW to be good, so I keep telling her to "stop and think" whenever she is about to act up.  And it's working, to some degree - I will see her catch herself right before popping Lucy and she will exclaim "I stopped and thinked, Mama!!"  But clearly she forgot to stop and think at dance that day.

We got home and I talked it over with Justin and we decided that we were done making excuses for her.  She may be acting out because she's tired (more on that later) or bored with doing the same thing over and over or because she misses me and knows that getting kicked out means she gets to see me, but that does not excuse her behavior.   Beyond that, we were tired of shelling out some serious moolah for class when she isn't even dancing half the time (or more).  We were officially going to quit.  

That was on a the time Monday (costume money due date) rolled around, I was having second thoughts.  I called my mom to see what she thought, and she reaffirmed that we were making the right decision.  Apparently Adriana has been acting up during swimming lessons too, which is news to me (she listens well at gymnastics though).  

I went to pick up the girls from daycare, and got a bad case of the sads.  I'm not even close to a dance mom; I'm not forcing Adriana to do something she hates just to fulfill my lifelong dream of being a dancer.  It's just that as a working mom I miss out on SO MUCH.  My mom gets to do all of the fun stuff with her; dance class is the one activity that I get to do with her.  Even though I don't get to watch most of the classes, I am the one who gets her ready, brings her to class, sits in the waiting area and asks her all about it when it's over.  I bought pies for a fundraiser, sent muffins for the bake sale, bought all of her little outfits, mastered the classic bun, and tied her ballet slippers every week.  I had SO been looking forward to cheering her on at the recital.  I could picture how cute she would look in the costumes, and bringing her flowers after the show.  Every time she has giddily twirled around the living room in her ballet outfit, it makes me insanely happy because I DID THAT.  I'm the one who made dance class happen.  And I just wasn't ready to let it go.

So I ended up driving out to pay for the costumes at the last possible second (with my own money instead of money from the joint account, so it's all on me if it still doesn't work out).  I felt bad for going against what Justin and I had decided, but letting Adriana drop out was making me feel like crap, like we failed as parents.  Deciding to stick it out felt like I was betting on my kid.  I am still struggling with what to say or do to make her understand that her behavior isn't acceptable, and it's still extremely embarrassing when she gets kicked out of class, but at least we are trying.    

How do you deal with it when your kid is being a holy terror in public?  Have you ever had to drop out of an activity because your kid wasn't following the rules?  Any thoughts on how to teach respect when it just seems like the importance of it isn't sinking in? I just feel so frustrated and bummed out by this whole situation, so any advice or words of encouragement are appreciated.  


Swistle said...

I don't know what to do about it EITHER. Edward (who is EIGHT) takes karate and is continually lying down on the floor, being silly, being giddy, making jokes when the teacher is talking seriously. It helps that I have two other kids in the same class who are being, while not ideal, at least within the reasonable range of good behavior. But I don't know WHAT to do about Edward. Take him out? But he says he likes it! And he's the LEAST physical/extracurricular of all five kids, so I hate to cancel his only activity. But it's so embarrassing!

Brenna said...

I'm not clear on if dance is something she wants to do but misbehaves, or if she misbehaves because she doesn't want to do it anymore. If it's the former, then maybe a little threatening is in order? A 'straighten up or you can't do this fun thing you like anymore' kind of threat? And maybe a small incentive system to go along with it?

If it's the latter, then I think you're fighting a losing battle.

Laura Diniwilk said...

Good question, Brenna. Here's the thing...she says she really still wants to do it, and swears up and down she will be good each time (which doesn't always pan out). But since she is my child, the more important something is to her, the less she acts like she cares. So if I were to threaten that we won't go anymore (which I did), she just looks me right in the eye and says "Good, I don't WANT to go anymore ANYWAY." Basically she is already a tiny teenager. But despite all of that, she dances all of the time, constantly wants to wear the outfits around the house, talks excitedly about the recital, and starts getting upset and saying she still wants to go when she hears Justin and I talking about quitting.

Shannon said...

If it were me (and this is just my opinion) is I would take her out. My 3.5 old is "spirited" and we signed her up for soccer because I thought she would like it. She SAID she liked soccer, but her actions said otherwise. She would refuse to participate and would just lay down on the pitch. She monopolized the coach's time because he would try so hard to get her to participate. I made her go and I made her participate through the end of the session, but we didn't continue afterwards. We switched to gymnastics instead and she does so much better with it. But I told Kaylee that if she didn't participate we wouldn't do soccer anymore. And we didn't. I think Adriana probably really does love dance, but maybe needs strong consequences to her actions. If she knows your threats to pull her out are empty, then there is no reason for her to shape up, right? And even if she is saying she doesn't care and you know she does...well, tough cookie. She created the problem. Maybe you could take a quarter off and if she does well in her other activities then she can go to dance again...have her "earn it back." Or could you find a place that is less strict? Or a mommy-daughter type deal? Because if she is missing you, then maybe she would rather do something with you then to know you are on the other side of the door but she can't see you. I completely understand wanting to teach her to honor her commitments, but I think she holds all the cards here and something obviously needs to change. You want to experience this with her, but if it leaves you drained and sad and angry then it isn't accomplishing what you want it to. I'm sure you could find something that is a better fit for both of you? I'm a working mom too so I really understand where you are coming from. Anyways, that's my thoughts on it. I hope you can find a solution soon!

susan said...

I have little input other than to tell you I actually used to do the same thing in dance class. I always made a scene to get kicked out. My reasoning thought was I'm sure not what hers was. Mine was, even back then, at that age I had self esteem issues and I wasn't that good, and I was heavier than the other girls (seriously, I had this in my head back at like age 6!!!), so I did it because I was uncomfortable. I hope you find a balance!

Nilsa @ SoMi Speaks said...

A few thoughts come to mind. First, as another mama whose child is in full time daycare, I know EXACTLY what you mean regarding wanting to participate in one lousy activity with your child. It is so rewarding getting to be a part of that activity. And we have experienced the sads when we have had to give up such an activity, too.

Second, we enrolled Gavin in a soccer class that he hated. Well, hate is a strong word. Rather, he wasn't interested in paying attention and fought us when we tried to encourage him to do the activity. After a couple sessions, we took him out. He clearly liked other classes more than he liked that class and we didn't want to drill it into him to a point where he'd eventually hate it. We still have hopes for soccer, just not right now.

Which brings me to my next point ... I think there is such a thing as too many activities for kids. On the one hand, it's great to expose them to lots of different activities to see what they like and what they're good at. On the other hand, kids who are in daycare all week ARE in activities ... and need time to just be kids on the weekends. As a result, we have scaled back Gavin's organized classes to only one on the weekend. That's it. We change it up from one session to the next, but for now we don't see a need to stack them up.

I don't have an answer for your situation - only you really know what's best. I hope you figure out something that brings some peace for you.