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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Keeping the Family Balance


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I am curious to find out how those of you with non-dancing children maintain the balance in your family life. My 11 year old DD currently takes 3 1.5 hour classes per week (with an occassional rehearsal one one more day). She does not feel like this is enough and wants to add one more class per week, especially before she goes away for her first SI this summer (ABT Detroit). Unfortunately we travel about 50 miles each way for class so dance days take up our entire evening. I don't think it's fair to my 7 year old non-DD to ask that she be away from home one more night. Although it would not interefere with her soccer or karate schedule, it would still mean one more late night out - and one more night hanging out at a dance studio. On the other hand, is if fair to my DD to limit her ballet training simply because it's an inconvenience? :P

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The age-old question for anyone with a child following a dream such as this...


Do you have a spouse or relative who could stay at home with the 7-yr-old while you take your DD to that extra class?? Or perhaps, arrange a carpool with another family. That can be very helpful.


The other thing is communication, and equal time spent with the non-dancer.

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We have two non-dancing children. When my husband works late, they would often have to go on the trip to the studio. It isn't 50 miles, but just far enough that it makes it senseless to drop off DS, go home, then come back. We turned that time into special time - time with mommy without having big brother around (DS is a teenager and not always the most pleasant person.) We sought out restaurants, even fast-food ones, that had indoor playgrounds. These were their nights to run and play. One winter it became a regular habit to show up one place on Tuesday and another on Thursday. Seems we weren't the only ones with this plan - the same group of kids were often there. They made quick friends and loved taking DS to dance after that. On other nights, it became our special time to read. At home there seems like there's never enough time - or quiet. In the car or the studio or the local library we had a chance to focus on reading - and they actually really liked that. In the winter, when the sun sets so early, children are often home watching television. I came to realize that what we were doing was actually much more productive and valuable. For those endless Saturday classes and weekend rehearsals, we went to local parks for basketball or baseball practice and even found tennis courts where we could practice, even when it was really cold outside. We would only have about an hour, perhaps a little more, to play around, but this is more than we would've found time for at home, where there always seems to be too many chores, or not enough time, or bad weather. The time span was also appropriate for their age - and level of focus! We also make sure DS attends their practices and games whenever he can. He doesn't want to - and could stay home alone - but it's only fair that he show the same amount of support that his brothers have to show him. I hope this sends a positive message to our other sons.

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My husband often stays home my 7 year old - and better yet even drives DD when he can, but he travels quite a bit for work, so it's not always possible. I try to make trips to the studio an adventure for my 7 year old too. We do the library, parks, scavenger hunts, indoor playgrounds, season passes to area theme parks. We even signed her up for soccer near the dance studio so that I could go to all of her games and practices. You are right Cheetah, the time I spend with her is much more productive than it would be if we were at home. I guess I never thought about it that way. Maybe I should look at as another night to spend with her rather than another night away from home. Thanks for the insight.

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This has been a huge issue in my family. My non-dancing son, age 13, is VERY aware of the time and MONEY (classes, leotards, shoes, summer intensives, ticktes for performances, etc. etc.) spent on his 11-year-old dancing sister, who has class 4 weeknights and every Saturday. Its impossible to keep things even. He even resents, at times, me reading on Ballet Talk!! He will say things like "All you care about is ballet." But, I have tried to do some special things for him (like a new go cart and a trip to NYC - just him and me) and I have arranged a car pool so I dont have to be at the studio every single night. Now that I am carpooling, I make an effort to spend time with him when I dont have to drive. Just being around means a lot. I really cherish that time with him. In some ways, it has been a character building experience for my son. He has had to learn to be supportive of his sister, and happy for her, and to let go of the green monster - who still pops up from time to time! But, we're working on it!

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Gosh - this is always a sticky subject in our house! My non dancing son, 13, knows very well the time and $$ and attention that goes into his sister, who has danced 5 or 6 days a week almost as long as he can remember. He's a super supportive brother, but there are days when he just wishes we didn't all live in the car, that we could all sit down to dinner together more than once or twice a week, or that we could spend more time focused on him. He's a very talented goalkeeper in soccer, and we feel very guilty that he doesn't get to pursue that sport at the level he probably could because we just simply don't have the time to take him to games, camps, and meets. We rationalize it, I guess, by recognizing that he is very academic, and that those meets and practices take priority over everything else, even sister's dance classes, and by reminding him that she has a very brief window of opportunity to chase this passion, whereas his opportunity will come in the college, post-grad and years after that. We juggle work schedules, hire "sitters" to drive the kids to activities when necessary, and hope that we're doing the best we can. When all else fails, we remind him that she's a senior next year, and after that, he'll be the "only" at home, and will get ALL the time and attention!

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dance1soccer1 - you mentioned something that I forgot to include in my post - when DS is gone for 5 or more weeks in the summer, his brothers get undivided attention. When things seem tough during the year, we remind them of this. Their needs and wants during the summer are very simple - go to the pool all summer. So that's what we do.


tatlet - another thing we do is make sure we take the opportunity to coach our younger sons' sports teams. They see exactly how much of a commitment this is from us and find it very, very valuable. Even more so than things we might buy them or places we might take them. For the younger kids you don't really have to have a lot of knowledge of the sport. I'm in my second year of coaching basketball - and knew nothing about the sport when I began. (My teams have still been very, very competitive, though, and have placed well in season standings and playoffs.) I can't go up with my 4th grader next year - I don't have enough knowledge. So I'll coach his younger brother for three more years. Husband coaches football and has done baseball for years. There are great books that will guide you and most leagues are desperate for coaches for the under 10 year old group. It makes it extra nice (for our other sons) that we never coached my DS when he was into baseball and soccer. Being the primary coach or team manager is a huge commitment. If there's no time for that, then being an assistant is just as good from the child's perspective. Another perk we found with this is we get to schedule the practice days which we've been able in the past to schedule on DS non-dancing days. That helped give us some semblance of balance. Sometimes you can even request game times (early morning versus late morning or early afternoon - or vice versa.) This ensured DS had no excuse for not attending at least some of his brothers's games.

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