Fly High Baby Bird

9 Sep

The new school year has begun and once again my two and a half year old little Baby Bird is home with me. I love it. I absolutely love our time together. This fabulous stay-at-home momminess is what I wanted so badly when I was picturing the ideals of motherhood as I incubated my little one for nine months. Eleven months out of the year I am confident that my decision to stay home and have my daughter at home with me are the right decision for us.

But right now I’m in the midst of that one month that makes me doubt my choice ever so slightly- Back to School month.

My social media, email, text inbox, and even mailbox are flooded once again with “first day” photos taken by other mothers I love and respect of their children- many the same age of Baby Bird- embarking on the journey of education outside of the home with a new lunch tote and big big smile.

My reasons for not enrolling Baby Bird in early education are valid- As a former educator I’m easily qualified to facilitate creative play and scaffold early academic skills. We can work on basic life skills in real situations. I’m always aware of her areas of deficit and advancement through our constant interaction. And we have no shortage of peer group playdates. Rough days can be rough days. Our schedule is ever flexible.

But just as valid are the reasons that other mothers I respect choose to send their children to early childhood programs- Their sons and daughters are learning to accept instruction and feedback from other adults. Their peer group reaches beyond the scope of mom’s hand-selected playgroup. Their growth is monitored through someone else’s lens with a broader perspective. They learn to navigate rough days. Their schedule marches on.

This summer I decided that the ideal compromise would be to enroll Baby Bird in one day of the Mothers’ Day Out performance arts program at the dance studio where I teach class. She is familiar with the location, the teachers, and loves dance and art and I can get some work taken care of one morning a week while watching her dance and play with peers on the studio monitors. Win/win!

And yet, as the beginning of the school year approached I couldn’t help but wonder if I was making the right decision. Could Mothers’ Day Out stand in for a “school” experience? Was she going to get something out of the program, or was it simply for me?

If Baby Bird was going to be involved in a program, I wanted her to be excited and invested in it.  I just could n’t wrap my head around how a 2.5 year old could be genuinely invested in something.  Luckily, the universe has a way of working things out for me.

A week before fall semester was to begin, Baby Bird and I spent a considerable amount of time at the studio helping get everything ready for the new year.  During that time our studio dance company, Push, was present seven hours a day for choreography camp.  Each day, I would sneak Baby Bird into the studios so that she could watch the dancers in person who so captivated her on the monitors and through the studio windows.

Her response made me feel immediately at ease with my decision to enroll her in Mothers’ Day Out at the studio as well as immensely excited about what the art of dance has to offer her in the future.  At the end of the week, I couldn’t help but share my observations with the company directors Kristin and Danielle (edited only to remove Baby Bird’s real name):

Go Running, Mama!: Fly High Baby Bird

Baby Bird with some of the older Push Company members

Kristin and Danielle-

I know y’all have been working unbelievably hard this week and I wanted to take a moment to share a little something with you from our family’s personal experience.
Baby Bird is no stranger to our studio, nor does she cross paths with many strangers at Balance- most students and parents know her by name at this point. It should come as no surprise that she loves to dance given her continued exposure to studio life and her access to caring, nurturing instruction.
Despite her frequent appearances at the studio year round, this week has provided her a unique opportunity to experience dance through the eyes and emotions of other young dancers- an opportunity normally only experienced by current company members- by being present at the studio in the whirlwind of choreography camp.
And something magical is happening within her little soul.
I’ve taught little ones for many years, so as an instructor I felt up until this week that I understood the depth with which a preschooler could love dance. For them “love” is enjoyment, a pastime, a hobby that consumes them when present but not much beyond that. If you had asked me Monday evening, I would still have told you that a toddler couldn’t be moved by dance. Couldn’t be captivated. Couldn’t be compelled into action by something greater than momentary enjoyment.
I was wrong.
I’ve allowed Baby Bird to stealthily slip into the studio several times throughout the week to watch the PUSH kids (whom she has referred to as “the beautiful dancers” since the first time she was enchanted by watching Mattie rehearse) because I thought she would enjoy it. What I got to witness in my child as a mother/dancer will never leave me.
I watched as your dancers moved her. I watched as their movements captivated her. I watched as the yearning to move consumed her… and has compelled her into a never ending stream of consciousness dance from the moment we arrive at home until the moment it is time for bed each night.
She moves with the honesty and abandon she was able to catch glimpses of as your dancers rehearsed. She is unrestrained and unafraid. She is alive with a very real love for something far greater than us all- the need the express the purpose of the universe through dance.
It’s been a long week for you all. You are tired, sore, and mentally burdened. You’re focused on the improvements that need to be made with time as the season progresses. Rightfully so.
But please know this- the effort, discipline, and passion that is being put forth by your students right now is already giving birth to the next generation. Each movement, however labored it might be from tired muscles, plants a seed for a child looking in from the outside. Each drop of sweat waters it. When you are able to reap what this generation has sown through their effort I know with sincerity that the results will be astounding.
Thank you to your company for silently and unwittingly giving birth to a passionate little dancer this week. Tiny eyes are watching each step they take; the responsibility they carry unintentionally is immense.
Very truly yours-
Go Running, Mama!: Fly High Baby Bird
Confidently, Baby Bird and I both faced her first day of Mothers’ Day Out with a smile.  She wore a brand new leotard and carried a lovingly packed lunch tote… and refused to pull her hair back- that’s the kind of start to be expected from my little redhead.  I know that she loves to dance and that she will stretch her creative side while she learns to take instruction from other adults and interact with her peers.  And she will keep learning from me at home as well.
I’m still doing what’s best for me and my mini-me.
It’s a win/win.
No guilt necessary!
Go Running, Mama!: Fly High Baby Bird

Baby Bird (left) with her teacher and a favorite toddler friend also embarking on her first day of class without Mommy

Thank you to Shawna Hesketh Photography for the beautiful images at the barre from Balance Dance Studio’s Path to Push program.

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