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Grieving over "lost" career


Guest pointeparent

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Guest pointeparent

I am a ballet parent. I have spent a few weeks grieving over the "loss" of my daughters dreams and coming to grips with reality. I have been a reader of these boards for two years. Deciding to join and seek advice.

 

My daughter is passionate about ballet. She is smart, articulate, and dedicated. She is an A student in academics. She started creative movement at 5-6 and ballet at 9-10. For years she had it all. She has the turnout and for years the facility. She went from one class a week to two and three and more. She began to go to SI's and always did well at auditions and programs. She dreams of dancing professionally. We live in a small community and she has no ability to take her ballet training to the next level locally.

 

She lives and breathes and reads and watches ballet. She was one of those that just wrapped herself in it. She did not blink at giving up the things that ballet dancers give up in middle school to dance and train. There was never any anguish over the choices. She made them easily. It was as if she did not seek out ballet, rather ballet just came calling.

 

Then puberty hit. It was late. That we knew was common. We figured a late growth spurt would help her height a little. BUt no further growth up. With periods came a sudden weight gain. Again, figured grwoth spurt ahead. None came. She is fourteen and has changed quite a bit in a matter of months. It began just a bit in the spring, after auditions. Then summer came and the change was scarey. After the four weeks at SI I almost did not recognise her. SHe literally put on 10 lbs in four weeks. Suddenly big appetite after dancing all day. SHe never had to watch before. Now if she eats when she is hungry she is in trouble. She is a little down on herself, and for the first time ever food may also be a comfort for her.

 

It is clear to me that a career in performance dance is no longer reality. It was never my dream for her anyway. BUt I am sad because it was such a dream for her. Problem is, she is just not able to see that this is just not going to be possible. She feels that her talent and artistry and musicality will carry her through. SHe had been accepted to a year-round school for the fall. It is one that will clearly help prepare her for career or college. I am almost relieved that she will certainly go on to college and not the ballet world out of high school. BUt I am anxious about sending her with her battling her weight. How hard will students and teachers be on her? Is it realistic for her to go to prepare for a possible career in ballet that is not performance? She is sooooo ballet literate. She can tell you about dancers, and choreographers, about ballet plots and original casts. Her background and knowledge from the small library of books and VHS tapes we have is amazing. She will soak up every bit of ballet she is presented, whether it is technique, steps, variations, history, costuming etc. She will be an assest to any school. But I am a bit anxious about showing up to move into the dorms and having them see this change. Should I just show up with her on check in day and take it from there? Should I call and discuss her current problem?

 

She has seen her pediatrician and a nutritionist and is making healthy changes in her attitude and her eating. She does not have the personality to "not eat" or fall into an eating disorder situation. That part doesn't worry me. My worry is that she wants to immerse herself in ballet. She still thinks she has a chance at a performance career. I am thinking it can still be ballet but perhaps first a college degree and then teaching or administering etc. Do I just sit back and let her see for herself? Do I keep her home and not let her go away? Do I prepare the school for the fact that the dancer they accepted looks a bit different that the one that is going to attend?

 

Such a delicate situation. And at 14 kids have such a delicate psyche anyway. And certainly not all ballet students take ballet to train for a performance career. Some are dancing for the pure love of dance. Just because she may not dance professionally does not mean she can't keep dancing.....But just how far do I let this go? And when do I put my foot down and say "no more" talk about a performance career and when to I keep my mouth shut and let her find out, maybe the hard way. She very much wants to still go away this fall. She says she can handle it, no matter what.

 

Have any of you had daughters who went through these body changes of puberty who then got did get a growth spurt and leveled out, or who slimmed down a bit after the hormones kicked in?

 

I guess I want to protect her, so I guess I just want to face reality now But she is not ready to let it go. But the longer she goes the harder she will fall. Sorry this is so long. I just don't know what to do.

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Patience. (Easy for me to say, huh?) I did most of my teenage growing after starting menses, and not for a couple years. I remember I grew at least two or three inches. And my weight went up and down, up and down, the whole time. I remember clearly that it started out pretty ugly; I think I weighed more, by far, at 13-14 than I did at 17-18. Hormones can make women a real mess. Also, there are some wonderful, intelligent people out there who just happen to be ballet teachers, and I suspect there are a few that will not throw the "baby out with the bathwater," so to speak. A lot can happen in the next few years.

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pointeparent I am not a ballet parent, but a retired pro, now teaching and my advice is to take the hard-to-do wait-and-see approach. If your daughter, minus the extra weight still has the facilty and desire then there is definitely time for things to 'level out'. This is not an uncommon experience; some get past and keep going and dance professionally, others do not, but since we cannot see into the future...

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I think you might be a bit quick on the trigger about your daughters potential ballet career being over.

One of my older daughters had a similar growth issue. She was about 13 or 14 when it happened. She was petite and slim through middle school and then WHAM, she grew...not only up but out as well. She matured what seemed to be overnight. Her chest grew to a C and she filled out completely, everywhere. She went from a size 1 or 2 to a junior 9. I was getting a bit concerned as well. She was not a dancer, but her weight seemed to be a bit out of control. I never said a word to her about it. She was well aware of how she looked and my added comments would not have helped at all. By her sophmore year she had slimmed down all by herself. No fancy diets or anything. Just plain ole time. She is now just 21 and is 5'8" and wears a size 4. She still has the C chest, but it looks good on her. We look back at pictures during those couple of hard years amazed that she was that big. :offtopic: Give it some time before you throw in the towel. Your daughter is only 14 and in your own words, went through late puberty. Let her finish growing up!

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I feel for you and your situation, pointeparent.

 

For what my thoughts are worth.......if the dramatic change has happened in only a matter of weeks, you need to give your daughter some time. Possibly her body will sort itself out and the growth spurt will come; possibly not - SHE need time to absorb all this information herself.

 

I believe that one of the wisest things you could do would be to take a step back, let her go forward always knowing that you support her unconditionally.

 

In terms of the new school, you might want to schedule a visit/interview a month or 6 weeks into things, so that you can see how things are going and talk to staff with respect to their views on her progress and adjustment to the program. Staff will need at least that amount of time to see her work in order to talk with you in an informed way. I don't think that you need to phone them in advance - I'm sure they're used to seeing changes in students from a spring audition to the fall....especially at this age.

 

Please don't shut the door on the idea of a performance career just yet. If that has to happen, let it be something that your daughter realizes; perhaps even with the assistance of supportive teachers. Hang in there...all the best.

 

m2

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I agree with the other posters, I went through the same thing. A late bloomer I went away to ballet school at 15 and within a few months had gained 30 pounds! (not a good time for it to hapen) I had always been super thin and I did not even know what to do to change it. At about 18-19 it started to drop off the way it had gone on and I have been slim ever since. Except now at 40 when the metabolism slows down it is difficult again. It really was what they call puppy or baby fat. I appreciate that you are trying to be realistic and I think that is really important as a parent to not bury your head in the sand. I know how hard it is to look at a student getting bigger and realize that it is probably temporary especially if genetically the family is on the slender side. But sometimes we teachers and parents have to grit our teeth and say nothing! Hard to do but I am sure she is aware of it.

At 14 I would really not worry and wait it out. :shrug:

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I'm chiming in to say that I agree with everyone else. They've all said it's too early to tell. Over the years, between the Irish dance school, my daughter's ballet school, and my academic teaching career, I've seen many kids around 13 and 14 gain quite a bit of weight only to slim down naturally in the next couple of years. And many of them did continue to grow in height after that initial weight gain. It's not unusual at all.

 

Beyond that, it's always important to keep in mind that there are lots of reasons why kids who "have it all" in their earlier dance student life still won't become professional ballet dancers. But that doesn't mean they can't have a performing career. There are many contemporary companies that, while not classical ballet, offer fulfilling careers. Teens often don't want to hear that but as they mature, they will recognize the wisdom of these other options.

 

I've seen so many kids stay in ballet for a bit while knowing it will most likely not be a career-maker for them. But they know how valuable the training is and that it can only help, not hurt, other dance possibilities. They're keeping their eyes open while still training, and eventually many of them land performing jobs in another dance form where they thrive.

 

Can't say it to a teen but it doesn't have to be all (ballet) or nothing.

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Me, too. I remember one dancer who at 15 was built, well, matronly. She was strong as a horse, and had terrific technique, but she just looked boxy and blocky and not at all what I would consider a hireable dancer. Several years later, I ran into her performing professionally, and I almost couldn't recognize her as she had "stretched" and attenuated, and looked completely different.

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Pointeparent,

This is a great place, isn't it! I am personally a bit grateful for both your post and the wonderful replies that have come in response. My daughter is also struggling a bit this year. She is 13 and experiencing similar changes. And she (and I) had a similar experience with her weight at SI this summer. It is so hard to know just what the right thing to do is. I have decided to step back and let nature and daughter plot her course. She has some battles ahead. But she is focused and driven. And she is still young. Her local teachers have said little about her weight. Such a touchy issue. You never know whether the history of eating disorders associated with ballet keep them from commenting. You also worry that they will just want to keep collecting the tuition to help pay the bills. This I think about, especially having to do with SI's and some year-round school residency schools.

But the discipline of ballet looks like it will serve my daughter well in the future, whatever that future holds.

So I pray a little and ride on the tails of her passion and enthusiasm. I, too, had hoped for a more conventional career for DD. And I read posts of parents who have backed their DK's up financially and emotionally through residency and post-residency training, only to find that there was no performance career in store for their child. I worry about the higher the climb and the harder the fall. But in the long run it is something that will either work out for my daughter or she will have to realize on her own that it is not meant to be. And I will support her as long as I can in her pursuits. Something very good will come of this journey. For that I remain hopeful. (guarded, but hopeful.)

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Hi, Pointeparent, and welcome to the Ballet Moms and Dads forum on Ballet Talk for Dancers! We've all been so eager to reassure you that we've forgotten to issue the official welcome.

 

You've hung around here enough, I'm sure, to realize the value of all these wise parents and teachers. I can't add much to what they've said. Your daughter is young yet, much can happen. I can only emphasize that it is best to keep your eye on the journey and not on its end. Most important of all is to support your daughter, and reassure her that your love and admiration is not linked to her weight, appearance, ballet skills, or professional prospects.

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Guest pointeparent

Thanks for so many kind replies.

She was strong as a horse, and had terrific technique, but she just looked boxy and blocky
I must admit this describes my daughter!!! I will be patient. It is tought though. This board talks about the 80% of parents that "don't have a clue," and of the "2%" that really ever have any chance of a performance career. So it seemed that I was one of the "80%" and daughter was one of the "98%" if you know what I mean.

 

I am all for being supportive until the bloody end. But these past few weeks seem too much of a reality check for me, especially seeing all the other dancers at daughters SI. But she is not yet deterred. So I will be patient.

 

Edited to add: Thanks Treefrog--you were posting as I was.

Most important of all is to support your daughter, and reassure her that your love and admiration is not linked to her weight, appearance, ballet skills, or professional prospects.
I could not agree more. I have been over the top about how I love her no matter what, and that she is on this journey for her and not for me. There seems to be a fine line between unlimited love and support, and the reality check of the here and now. My aim continues to be for her to pursue what it is that makes her happy, and gives her joy. She is not so aware of my turmoil over whether to continue to be all supportive or not. It will be our little secret. Perhaps my grief has been premature. I guess I am such a realist. She is the dreamer. I will let her continue the dream. It is fueled by SUCH PASSION. Edited by pointeparent
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Guest ap's mom

At fifteen my daughter was the "late bloomer". I sent her off to CPYB for

the SI and she also gained 10 lbs and went from an A cup to a C in FIVE weeks! But we had been advised that weight gain is normal as the puberty cycle completes itself. Be patient! My daughter who is now 18 is far slimmer than she was at 15 and the weight dissappeard just as mysteriously as it appeared. I will never forget picking her up at CPYB as she ran to see me (very obvious breast change), I thought she went to the mall and bought a water bra! I was laughing until she almost cried and said "no mom it is all me"! OOPS!

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And let's not forget that a change in eating style, which is highly possible at an SI, can make for a change in caloric intake. Once she's home and settled back on the family's normal way of eating those extra calories may just disappear from the diet. If she ate cafeteria style, then I'm sure things were prepared with extra fat and calories then she might get at home.

 

Definitely too soon to discuss a dream denied!

 

vj

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I heard an interesting discussion on the radio about MaryKate Olsen who is currently in a treatment program for anorexia. The "expert" was asked what causes an eating disorder and she said that there were many causes. She did not think that the main cause was telling someone to lose weight. After all, most of the country is on one diet or another and only a very small number develop eating disorders.

 

That said, I agree that you don't want to ruin a young girl's self-image just as she is developing into a woman. But maybe some guidance and nutritional help would be useful. I don't think it is a surprise to any dancer that they need to be thinner than the average person. Therefore you would only be helping her if you helped her to gain some control over her diet and keep her weight at a dancer-acceptable level. She might even welcome your help.

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I have some experience with this issue I can share.

 

My dd had always had a more "athletic" build than the other girls in her ballet classes over the years -- trim and fit but not a string bean like many others. It was never an issue to her until the age of 14 ... she began to realize on her own that there would indeed be some impacts and began to share her frustration with me. I tried to steer away from the issue as I didn't want her to feel bad about herself and tried to encourage her just the way she was.

 

After attending her SI last summer as she turned 15, she, too, gained probably about 5-8 pounds which did show and escalate her frustration level. She soon developed angst around the issue and it came to a point where I thought I needed to do something but I didn't know what. I didn't want her to develop an eating disorder ... but I felt that no matter which direction I headed in, she would. If I insisted that she not diet, she might use it as a control issue and stop eating. If I said that it would be OK to diet, she might not eat enough and spiral into an eating disorder. So I compromised and told her I would help her but that it had to be my way. We went with making healthy choices, not dieting.

 

The more serious she became about ballet this past school year, the more motivated she was to make the healthy choices. She was indeed successful in trimming down but I watched her like a hawk. I continue to watch her like a hawk because I will always be a bit nervous about the whole thing. Since shedding the weight, she has actually returned to her normal self. She watches what she eats during the week and has treats like a normal teen with her friends on weekends. But she has made the decision on her own because she decided that she really wants to be a dancer and so she manages it accordingly because it's what she wants.

 

The bottom line is this as far as I'm concerned. Until it became an issue for her herself, I would NEVER have discouraged her from doing something she loved to do, even if she was "bigger" than the other dancers. The way I look at it, no one can ever predict what will happen. Many other things can prevent a young girl from a performing career ... an injury, a boyfriend, a change in likes/dislikes about dance, not being good enough, and so on.

 

The important thing to me is that she is a focused teen doing something she loves -- ballet. If all ballet does for her is help her keep her focus through high school and give her a love for the performing arts or a hobby for life, then I have succeeded. If she does indeed become successful in a performing career, it's an added bonus. How are we as parents to know who will make it and if our children actually have what it takes? I don't think any of us, parents, teachers and the like can really predict the future, especially when they are so young.

 

So ... I would say, agreeing with everyone else on this thread -- do NOT worry and do NOT write anything off yet. Let her enjoy her passion and her love ... and enjoy the wonderful journey along with her.

 

It's her life and she'll figure it out whether it will be (or not) -- on her own ... when she gets to that point in her life.

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