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Coming over to the "other side"


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First, to the parents of 13+ (and to the wise teacher/moderators) a moment to stop and say HURRAH!! and THANK YOU!! I stumbled on this site when my dd was going on 10, had just announced that she was serious about ballet...and I was searching for information. I found it, and much wise council, here.


Lots has changed; new members, the topics on the board (always new information), ideas, etc...but for my dd -- dancing, always dancing. I've learned a lot along the way, from her, her teachers, and here on the boards.


Now dd is turning 13 in September (yes, I've promised her her own account then) and this ballet thing is getting more and more "real" (okay, overwhelming at times). This summer, she did her first SI away from home. LOVED IT. Come fall, she will be in class 5 nights a week (she's thrilled); and rehearsing most weekends.


So again (and not for the first time), I'm coming to the Parents Who Know (as in, have been there) for wisdom -- any thoughts on the world of the intense, daily dancer? I'm still working out the kinks of transporation versus (my) work schedule, carpools, homework (as in WHEN will it happen?), sleep, meals...the behind-the-scenes stuff to make this ballet life workable in the context of family life.


It's interesting...when the parents' board split a few years ago into the over/under 13 groups, I didn't really think anything of it. Now that dd is turning 13, and the intensity and commitment is ramping up full speed, it's starting to hit me that this isn't (and in my child's eyes, never was!) a nice, after-school something to do; and maybe next semester we'll try basket-weaving. Next semester, mom, is more dancing! At least in her case, 13 is kind of a turning point. In the level she's about to enter, there are two programs: full-time and intensive division (yup -- she's in intensive, and like many others are responding on another current topic, one of the youngest in her level). It seems to be getting very real about now...


How do you do it? What keeps you sane (on and off the road)? Best-kept secrets for a well-adjusted (well...in light of the age!) teen dancer??

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Wow, msd,


What a great posting! My dd is almost exactly the same age (13 in December), and I feel EXACTLY as you do!


Help! All you parents of older kids...What are we looking at here? Please write in with your best advice!





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One thing I wish someone had told me when my DD was 13...she does not need to be a pro by age 14. Until I started reading on BT, I thought she had to be as good if not better than the best dancer her age at her studio or she might as well walk away. Take it slow. Let her develope at a steady pace and keep the balance in her life. At 15 now, DD has to wave off a dance class here and there to complete homework and wave off friends to go to rehearsal. I try to allow her freedom to make some of those choices and do not demand perfection in all that she does. It hasn't been easy but it will be easier for you becaue you have BT full of advice and info to guide you along. This is only one of many phases for you, lots of ups and downs in this phase. Love her thru them all!

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I agree with bobbypinfinder - let her take it at her own pace and learn not to demand perfection in everything. I never insisted that my daughters have straight A's in every subject or be the best dancers in their classes. They were good students, and both were accepted to colleges. I know parents who went crazy if their child brought home a B on his/her report card. Some kids can get straight A's with an intense dance schedule and some can't even if they stay up all night. Yes, academics and dance classes are important, but you can't make your kids afraid to get less than an A on a test or fearful to take a night off from dance because they're just wiped out. Let your daughter go to that school dance or football game without feeling guilty. It's good to be serious and dedicated, but their young years only happen once. Above all else, give her the best training you can find. When and if that means her leaving home and you can swing it financially and she is ready for it emotionally, go for it.


Right before my youngest daughter(she's 19 now) left home to go to her pre-professional school last year, I realized I had been driving either her or her sister to dance for 15 years! Sometimes, I worked a full-time job during the day, ran in the door, grabbed something to eat, and drove to dance class. Usually, we would get home around 9 PM. Weekends turned into a constant stream of Nutcracker and spring show rehearsals, or auditions for summer intensives. Just when I thought I couldn't drive another mile, something wonderful would happen to keep us going - a difficult step was finally mastered, a nice part in a show, that much desired acceptance to a SI. You will look back on this time wishing you were doing it all over again. (Yes, even the driving - the conversations in the car get more and more interesting as the years pass!).



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Hi msd,



Celebrations on graduating! When I first read this post...what ran through my brain was the song from that cheerleading movie "Bring it On"...the part of the movie where the magic fingers guy (Sparky Palastri?) plays that music ~You All Ready for This~ as he attempts to teach them magic fingers...random right!


My DD is now 20...what have I learned along the way? somedays I think a lot...other times I feel virtually clueless...so keeping that in mind, I'll be happy to share what was relevant to us (may not be for you)

The intensity level at 13 may shift in the dynamics at your DD matures into an older teen and a more advanced dancer. There was a gradually shift from being a dreamy ballerina ...to being a professional working dancer. In the transition, the intensity shifted to an ebb and flow pattern. A realization of 'exactly' what it means to be a dancer/a professional/working in a company. As you are entering this preparatiion phase...there are a few things I found to be true for us. On occasion, DK's need to vent: they often have limited opportunity to do so...in school, ballet can be a foriegn language for most of their peers, and some may feel the ballet school may not be an appropriate place, some may feel intimitated going to their ballet teachers etc...you get the idea...This does not mean that they want to quit~ Unless it is a constant, repetitive pattern of complaining, chances are its just venting...DD will not want you to DO anything, even if you could...so your role becomes that of listener & encourager. While it sound relatively easy, it is not, because ballet has its own language and you tread the line between being a mom and understanding as an adult and understanding through the eyes of your dancer. It will take some time to figure out what view to provide when.


Also, it helps to stay flexible within the structure provided. While you have no control of the time of classes and rehearsals...staying within the moment of that structure helps. Know that schedules will change, rehearsals will run over etc... and flow with it. I grocery shopped at 8:00 at nite, did laundry at 5:00 a.m. really whatever worked...and I worked full-time too~ It also helps to be a bit organized...domestic goddess was nothing I aspired to...but I found when we we ready to go vs. getting ready to go things were calmer. Also, when I was calm, so was DD...although this was primarily true when she was younger 10-15...Can make a big difference in the car. As she became older, her mood and temperament was largely of her own device. And for the most part, positive...On a practical note....have a pillow, blanket, cooler, food....homework happens in the car before class...or between rehearsals...or getting ahead on weekends...when she gets home, after the shower...and she'll be hungry, now :shrug: and sometimes, at 5:00 a.m. before school. Though this was mostly true when she entered high school~sophmore and junior year. If she wants it she'll make it work. 5 Nights a week is the beginning of the training up to 12 hour days during a season! She will learn to do laundry and grocery shop. And all those other life things. While company life vs. school life can be less demanding in some respects...in other ways it is more intense, think of this time as the beginning of the training in stamina.


As you enter the intensity and become more acclimated, ballet will cease to be overwhelming for the most part, and become more a way of life. It will involve your whole family. Perhaps, not literally, but just the dynamics of scheduling etc. However, its no different, than a soccer mom, a hockey dad, or the parent of an equestrian. We are all dedicated. The commitment level is at once, unique, but relatively the same. To maintain the balance between doing life and living life was my biggest challenge. The balance that we all struggle with. Decide what is important and what can you let go of...in looking back, I wish I relaxed a bit more, because in hindsight what was really a "Big Deal" at the time, was in the long run, a "Blip"...It takes a long time to 'grow a ballerina'~ Stay true to your instinct. You know your child better than anyone. If it doesn't feel right to your daughter or you, then it probably isn't...There is always room for lots of opinions and views, but in the end you have to trust what is right for your DD and your situation. Know, that there will come a time, where your DD will need to start making some of her own decisions regarding dance. As she matures, she will know her strengths and weaknesses perhaps, better than you. You will need to trust her. Granted, the parameters will still be yours to set...but she will need to make some of her choices as this will help prepare her for being a professional. A gradual implemetation of her own choices will also help make her independent and build her confidence. So when the time comes to "let her go"...she will be confident and ready....and while there is no magic time to let them go, it may ease your mind to know she is capable.


Another thing to file away in the back of your brain; ballet is in a constant state of evolution. On the outside, to the general eye...you pick a ballet and you dance it...moving on~ but, the reality of the dynamics behind the ballet world is different...for example, when my daughter was 11 or so, and in her 'dreamy ballerina phase'...the GENERAL TREND among companies was the 'baby ballerina'...so that became her goal...however, as she progressed through dance, the trend shifted and more mature dancers were being hired...yes, there are exceptions...I'm not here to take issue with any of that,...my point being, that you & DD need to stay flexible and go with the flow of the larger picture. Know also, that for the most part, you are your DD's reality check. This is different than the reality check from the mirror or the teacher.

She knows that you think she is wonderful~you're her mom...so when she asks for real feedback...on her feet, or her hands or whatever....be kind and honest and readily admit what you don't know...in my case, it was everything :wink: why? because when they get older and the intensity becomes rooted in the competition in getting a job, you will have very honest conversations based on those early discussions of strengths weaknesses...it's important because it helps to direct where should DD dance, what comapanies do she may want to work for...am I being clear? It will also help her decide if she has what it takes to be a professional at this level. Because while making it into a company is wonderful, that is the new beginnning to start the road to get to the top, or the next role, or the promotion or whatever her goal is. So, while I advocate staying true to those core values that are important to you, staying open-minded during this time is also important.


I think most of the moms who have wisdom, have developed it by trial and error, you will too! I'm sure many of us share "the who knew we'd end up here feeling"...Enjoy the ride, msd...the most true thing about ballet life?...it IS the journey. Much Happiness as you embark on this new chapter!


[edited by moderator to remove unnecessary quote of entire initial post in thread.]

Edited by dancemaven
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I agree, NSMH, that was a great post! I don't have anything to add to the previous posts so much, but want to reinforce a couple of things. For my DD, who is 17 now, the early adolescent years were probably the most difficult. The physical changes in her body, combined with the more advanced training really challenged her physically and emotionally. I found this articles, http://www.iadms.org/displaycommon.cfm?an=1&subarticlenbr=1 then and it helped both of us tremendously to understand what was going on and gave her the perseverence to work through it. I also want to echo was NSMH said about venting and being your DD's confidant. That has certainly been my role. Sometimes it feels like being a personal coach, but it is true, that we are in a unique role--we see how much time and effort is involved, so we have some understanding of the level of commitment (something nondance friends often don't "get") and we are completely in their corner, whereas there is always a certain level of competition even among dance friends. Sometimes when I'm listening to a "blow by blow" description of a class, I think, "I'm over-involved in this" and worry that I'm becoming the dreaded "Ballet Mom," but reading NSMH's post, I realized that I am filling an important role. Sometimes watching my daughter struggle through this process has been extremely hard, and it is still hard, but the intangible rewards are definitely worth it!

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So much has been said in the above posts, that I feel silly trying to add anything. However, one thing that saved us (and sometimes other dance families too) time and again was having emergency supplies in my car at all times. I kept a tote with all sorts of extras and kept it stocked. This included bandaids, elastic bandages, instant ice packs, hair bands, bobby pins, hairnets, extra brush and comb, hairspray an old pair of ballet slippers, thread, needles, scissors, pins, pencils, pens, spiral notebook with removable paper, batteries for electronics, tylenol and ibuprofen. :clapping:

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Love your description of the "emergency tote". I think every child at DD's dance school thinks of me as Mary Poppins because EVERYTHING is in my purse!

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  • 2 weeks later...

MSD - thank you for asking the question, and thank you NMSH and others for your thoughtful responses. My daughter turned 13 this past summer, and my husband and I can see the number of hours that will be committed to ballet once school and ballet re-start (one week). We see the tension that lies ahead between dance (class/rehearsals), school and friends.

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