Mommy Misadventure: Tiny Dancer

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Every Monday morning I look forward to hanging out with one of my best friends while our daughters attend a class together.  We started with gymnastics, and that was great– except a spirited Noodle would run around the gymnasium barely keeping herself from falling into giant pits of foam pieces or stumbling over balance beams.  She loved it, but mostly for the chance to run around like a maniac and ignore everything the instructor said.

Thank goodness for patient teachers.

Soon our daughters began to talk about tutus and ballerinas.  Noodle loves reading Angelina Ballerina and twirling like her favorite dancing mouse.  Perhaps a dance class would provide the structure she needed to follow directions and help her succeed?  My friend scouted out a class, and while it’s a hike for me to get there (an hour with Monday morning traffic, on a good day) we signed up.

Pink leotard (with a skirt), tights, and ballet shoes were purchased.  Fees paid.  By Monday morning, Noodle was in such an excited tizzy she couldn’t contain herself.  The entire drive down, she kept repeating, “I go to dance class, mommy?  I dance in the class?  I do a twirl?”

Of course we were late, darn traffic.  The parking lot is a mile long, so you can imagine how I looked–  holding Noodle, her skirt flying, pushing Ben one-handed in the stroller, possibly balancing a cup of coffee in my “free” hand (hey, it was 9 AM and I needed it!)– and running through a parking lot of cars cursing the architect who planned this crazy-long parking area/entrance.

Then we had to use the elevator, thanks to the stroller.  Insert Jeopardy music here as I attempted to catch my breath and wait for the elevator to rise up one floor in 5 minutes.

Doors open, we dash in, and repeat the running/pushing/carrying thing until we get to the classroom.  Stripped off Noodle’s coat, changed her into her ballet slippers, and pushed her into the room.

From the window, I watched my little ballerina ignore everything the teacher said and instead stand watching herself in the mirror for the entire class– smiling, posing, and twirling.  She was in heaven.

Okay.  It was her first class, and we joined it in the middle of the year after most of the other girls had been dancing together for months.  We didn’t have a ‘gentle landing’ to get her ready for it.  Perhaps she missed the part where she figures out she’s supposed to listen to the teacher.  There’s always next week, right?

The following week was the observation day, where parents got to sit in and watch the class.  I watched my daughter once again ignore the teacher, run around the room, dance alone in the mirror, hop when the other girls were twirling, twirling while the others were doing pliés.  At one point she hopped to the middle of the room and put on her own dance show.  My thoughts ran from being mortified to laughing uncontrollably.  I *may* have taken a cell phone video and put it on my personal Facebook page, where it got quite a good reaction from my fellow Noodle fans.

“It’s only her second class,” I told myself.

“She’s incredibly happy here and full of joy,” I continued to rationalize in my head.

“Your daughter is so cute!” the other mothers told me.

“Thanks!  It’s only her second class and she’s incredibly happy and full of joy!” I responded with a smile plastered on my face.

Class #3 was over a holiday, so daddy joined us to observe the fun.  When the other girls lined up to practice a move, Noodle ran down the line three times tapping each little ballerina on the belly.

Class #4 was also on a day daddy could join us.  Noodle enjoyed the ribbon dancing so much she ran around like a Tasmanian Devil and refused to put her ribbon away.

The week before each class, we talked about being a good listener and what listening looks like.  We played “Mirror Mirror” to get her in the habit of following directions and practiced common ballet moves that I looked up online so she’d know what the words meant.  “This is so FUN, mommy!” she’d say as we practiced.  “Again, again!”

This was not one of the ballet moves we practiced.  
“I touch my toes!” she gleefully exclaimed as this photo was taken.

Finally, by class #5 I watched through the window as all the girls lined up and danced in a circle following each other.  My tiny dancer, a good head shorter than the others thanks to her years of feeding issues, ran the opposite direction– smiling, laughing, but going the wrong way.  She stood when they sat.  She sat when they stood.  At one point, she danced around the Christmas tree that stood alone in the corner, several weeks past Christmas.  Apparently the tree didn’t follow rules, either.

It was too much.  Tears appeared out of nowhere, invading the corners of my eyes.  They burned there until one dripped down my cheek.  My heart felt like it was being squeezed, and it hurt.  We are so blessed– SO BLESSED– that she has come this far.  According to the doctors she should be a vegetable.  She was never supposed to walk, let alone run or think or wear a tutu.  But sometimes the ‘being different’ is like an invisible weight.  From the outside she looks normal, but inside harbors something that makes her different.  Why can’t she listen?  Why can’t she understand directions?  Why won’t she do what she’s so obviously supposed to be doing?  What part of the trauma of her early years gave her ADD, was it something I did???

Even in hindsight, tears still fall recalling that moment.  It’s hard to watch your kids be different, even in a household that encourages individuality.  Sometimes being different means more than just “she’s having fun” and encroaches into will she be able to learn in school or remember the rules when it comes to driving a car or hold down a job territory.  As the tears stung my eyes, my loving friend hugged me and it felt okay.  This friend who has known Noodle since she was in the NICU and loved her every step of the way, no matter what the outcome would be, made it okay.  Somehow, that hug made me feel better and before the other moms noticed I swiped away the tears and took my last few sniffles.

That week I gave up playing Mirror, Mirror and faux ballet practice at home.  For class #6, I let her walk into the room with a simple ‘have fun!’ instead of ‘listen to the teacher! watch what the other girls are doing, and do the same thing!’  She scurried in and joined the girls sitting in the circle.

She also sat in the circle.

When I tortured myself by peeking in the window a few minutes later, she was in line with the girls happily following the dots on the floor.  A few minutes after that?  Dancing with the ribbons, and while she was the last to do so she still placed hers in the box.  Then she cleaned up a few straggling ribbons and joined the others at the ballet bar…. where she danced the moves the teacher was modeling with the other girls, beaming when she caught a glimpse of my face in the window.  When it came time to jump, she jumped.  Plié time?  Pliéd.  Oh, it’s time for a pirouetté?  Let me show you how it’s done.

I’m sure in between my peeks in the window she didn’t do a thing she was supposed to, but you know what?  That’s okay, too.  She showed me she could listen and follow directions while still being happy, and still being her.

As class was dismissed, she accepted the lollipop from her teacher and handed it right to her brother because he wanted it.  My heart swelled.  She is such a beautiful person, whether she knows how to plié or not.

God, how did I get so lucky?

I’m sure class #7 will be full of surprises, Noodle-isms, and plenty of moves only my Tiny Dancer could make.  The heavy heart over her special learning challenges will probably always be there.  But just for one day, it felt amazing to watch her spread her tiny wings and think that maybe things will be okay.

The truth is, you can follow all the rules in the world– and all the people in the world, for that matter– and still be miserable.  You probably will be miserable, actually.

For my baby?  I’ll choose happiness.  Happiness beats just about everything else in my book.

Dance on, my tiny dancer.  Dance on.
My dear Noodle, it’s your mama who needs to learn what it means to march to the beat of a different drummer.  And when I do, I’ll be the one holding the drumsticks.  Pinky swear.
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  1. I just have to say, I saw that Facebook video and, as lovely as the other little girls looked, most of them were standing there like confused bumps on a log the whole time. I much prefer Noodle’s care-free, no-holds-barred approach to the discipline! No one can say that she’s not living life to the fullest.

  2. you need to write more posts like this. love this SO MUCH. once again you have me bawling at my desk at work.

    i wish you could see me right now…because i just can’t put it into words.

  3. As a mother to a child with a learning disability I want to say that I love, LOVE, everything you wrote here. I was nodding and smiling and crying as I read your words. I sounds like you and your Noodle are both very lucky girls.

  4. I love, love, love this post! It’s so beautiful and a reminder to us as moms to let them go and have fun and be happy. She looks like she’s really enjoying herself!

  5. This is such a beautiful post! I’ve got tears running down my face because of the love you have described for your daughter. So precious!

  6. I love the way you write. Your stories are so wonderful. I love how our kids teach us without trying. They really are amazing creatures. I hope Noodle always dances to her own music. She is special for so many reasons.



  7. I loved this and she is stunning…only innovative people make change in the world. Sounds like she is an innovator!

  8. Ugh, my super long comment just disappeared [my fault, not your site!].

    So to summarize –

    Carrie, I love this post + I love that you’ll be marching right along to Noodle’s beat!

    I went through a similar situation last week with my stroke-surviving 2.5 year old. Noticed all his struggles at the park and all the littler kids whipping right by him…tears that night + at his PT session the next day. Its easy to look at him and forget all his struggles – no one would know his med history and I sometimes forget too. But he amazes me everyday + 2 days later, showed visible improvement getting up the park steps. Made me tear up again – this time I was reminding myself to never underestimate him.

    Our kids are incredible. Not because of the miracles they’ve already performed to survive as babies, but because they will amaze + delight us everyday. We just have to remember to let them.

    If you come up with a way to cope with the fears, worries + tears, let me know. But I think you’re doing a wonderful job of recognizing all the blessings both of your kids bring you.

    God bless,

  9. And now I’m in tears. That was beautiful. I know what you mean about wishing she weren’t different, yet feeling so grateful to have her here and just glad she’s happy. It is such a mix of emotions. Those photos of her are adorable!

  10. Beautiful post! I don’t have anything to add except to say that I think she is perfect and isn’t it amazing how God uses our children to teach US so much more than we expected?

  11. You are an absolute inspiration, and I simply cannot get enough of your blog. While I don’t have any children yet, being married just about a year and a half, I love children, and I am a high school teacher. This post absolutely brought tears to my eyes for so many reasons. I commend you for being such a compassionate, accepting mother, who is truly a mother. In my high school classroom, I see so many kids who are not successful, and so many times, when I call their parents, they don’t seem to mind. Being a parent means being there for your children, no matter what happens, and you truly understand that concept. You are incredible, and so is your daughter! Thank you, for brightening my morning, and for being such an incredible mother to a child who is part of the future of our world.

  12. This is a BEAUTIFUL post!! Aside from how gorgeous she is! My son loves to run around, he thinks he is Captain America and other days he thinks he is Batman. While others in his preschool class are sitting for circle time he talks into his wrist “Avengers Assemble” and then flies off at will. Once in a while he listens, but much…at all!! We just started soccer and I was sure he would fly around and show all the other moms how he doesn’t listen, how I can’t get him to listen (and at times I don’t try because I can’t always be yelling or correcting my baby boy) and then to my surprise and my husbands surprise….HE LISTENED!!! Not only did he listen but he played and did everything he was supposed to for a whole hour!!!!!!!
    Carrie….thank you so much for sharing this….I felt so much like it was me speaking of my son!!!

  13. This is SO wonderful! I related to so very much of what you said; with kids that look the same on the outside but then, as we say, “March to the beat of a different flute”. I’m so thankful that she has someone who celebrates exactly who she is 🙂

  14. I am sitting here reading all the wonderful stories and I can’t help but to cry. I find your life to be so inspiring & your baby a true miracle. Thank you for sharing with us 🙂

    I am your newest follower!

  15. Oh Carrie, I just love this! You are such a special mommy and I am just in awe of how you interact with your kids. Such a role model for me!

  16. This is a wonderful post. I have two special needs girls, one in 6th grade, one a freshman in high school. It is a beautiful thing to see a mom like you, learning that the ‘special’ in her baby really is a gift…my beautiful girls are not who they are in spite of their difficulties, but because of them. You are on a long journey with her. Not an easy one, but together you and she will learn the most amazing things, about each other and yourselves. Enjoy it. She will!

    1. Thank you so much for your kind words. I really needed to hear them today after a long night of my daughter being sick. She has terrible reflux as a result of her brain injury and last night was hard, but this morning she’s fine and indeed the sun rises again. 🙂 Her resilience amazes me! Thanks for sharing about your beautiful daughters and your journey, I just totally needed to read that today!

  17. Pingback: How to Style Vignettes in Real Life {Day 23} | Making Lemonade
  18. Hi 🙂 I found your blog by accident and joined because I enjoy your writing. After reading your 4 posts about your daughter I just wanted to say..YOU are a amazing mother! YOU are the perfect mother for your Noodle! God obviously planned that out well 🙂 Be proud of yourself. You are doing a amazing job and its a perfect match. Perfect for your daughter. She is a blessing to you but YOU are also a blessing to her. Amazing. Great job.

    1. Laurie, THANK YOU from the bottom of my heart for taking the time to comment and following along on our journey! She’s such a blessing, and it means the world to me that others think so too. Your comment comes at the perfect time, too. I need to advocate for her when it comes to her school and it’s going to be a hard thing to do but you’ve reminded me that I was chosen to do the hard things for her, and just how far we’ve come. Thank you!

  19. I can’t even remember what recipe brought me here. But I have read all four posts related to your daughter with tears in my eyes. The invisible weight of being different? I don’t know a better way to describe the feeling of being the parent of a special needs child. Intuition? I’m reading a book called “Blink” by Malcolm Gladwell that discusses the SCIENCE of intuition…you should check it out. Thank you so much for sharing your journey. You have a new reader

    1. It’s so funny you mentioned “Blink”– my husband has that book and I have yet to read it. I think it’s going on my Christmas vacation reading list! Thanks so much for your thoughtful comment and I’m going to find the book right now!

  20. I just landed here, after searching for a recipe and read all four posts about your daughter’s birth. What an amazing story. Ohhhh — you’ve made me cry because I can only imagine your heartache…but you absolutely made me laugh out loud with these words:
    “From the window, I watched my little ballerina ignore everything the teacher said and instead stand watching herself in the mirror for the entire class– smiling, posing, and twirling. She was in heaven.”

    Then I cried again (of course) but it sounds like you have wonderful friends surrounding you for support. I also have two angels, the first of which we are finding out, as she gets older, has some needs. They are not on the scale of what you’ve dealt with, but sensory processing and extreme anxiety issues are there. We are beginning the new year with counseling and have gone through OT, as well. I mention this only because I understand and feel what you are saying when you speak of wondering why she isn’t like the other kids. But, thankfully, those moments are few. I’ve been there; I am there. And I think that God handpicks the parents. So smile — because you were chosen for the most important role there is, raising those angels. (ps – I absolutely believe in intuitions and connections. You’re not alone there.) Best wishes!

    1. Suzi, thank you for your wonderful story and taking the time to connect with me. You know just what I’m dealing with! I’m so blessed my daughter is doing well but the sensory and anxiety issues can be just as heartbreaking. I truly believe God picks us for reasons we may not always know in this life, but what an honor to be chosen. Thank you for making me smile and taking the time to comment. I means the world to know I’m not alone!

  21. Just found your blog…I’ll add you and your family to my prayer list if you don’t mind. I’m not a mom but absolutely believe in intuition. Plus believe it and/or that special connection we sometimes have with other is a gift from God. I get what I call death dreams/nightmares in which someone I know passes away. If it only happens to be one person that passes away in my dream within 6 months I do end up loosing that person. As the time gets closer the dreams become more frequent. I know it may sound odd to call that sort of intuition a gift. However it is like Gods way of letting me say goodbye, so as to not have regrets. I don’t normally tell anybody (the 1 time I was sick and told a Dr. about it after he asked if I had been having unusual dreams, my mom freaked out thought they were going to lock me up) about these which is why I posting Anonymously. I have severe health issues and many times I’ve been able save my own life or help my loved ones because I trusted my intuition. Wasn’t feeling quite right or just knew something wasn’t right with my loved one. When the dr.’s would want to just blow it off as a virus or I was just worn out. When I just knew in my gut something was majorly wrong, insisted they did more testing. Just saying all this to say always trust your intuition, especially for your loved ones. Even if you think you might be being paranoid, over protective or just a hypochondriac.

    1. I so absolutely needed to hear this today, thanks for sharing your story and belief in intuition!!

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