“So,” she said, “what’s your daughter doing now that she quit the dance company? How is she spending that time?”
What a question. I’d run into my acquaintance while walking our dogs, and could have anticipated it.
“Um, napping,” I said.
“No, but really, how is she using that time?”
“Really, napping,” I assured her. In fact, I guessed that was what she was doing right then, as we spoke.
Nervous laughter. “Oh, well. Gosh. Zoe’s really enjoying dancing, and she’s trying to figure out how to fit in her piano and flute and, and she’s begged me to let her take up a new sport-she’s just got so many interests! She’s taking a few AP classes this term too so we’re trying to figure out how to fit it all in!”
“Wow, wonderful,” I said, and “good luck!”
The dog and I went on our way, tails down.
I might have even gotten teary. Ok, yeah, I did.
What was WRONG with my girl? She could be out running right now (like, coincidentally, the sister of the dancer-I had seen her just yesterday striding down the street, timing herself, ponytail flying.) She could be in an after-school science lab. She could still be in her dance company, whose motto was “Creating Worthwhile Human Beings, One Dancer at A Time.”
I’d always had a little problem with that motto. Did it imply that there was such a thing as an UNworthwhile human being? Are there humans who are more worthwhile, more valuable, than others? Was my daughter less worthwhile now that she had quit the company?
How worthwhile was napping?
The comparisons will never stop, if you don’t put a halt to them. I have a Wheel of Comparison in my head, like the Wheel of Fortune, and at any given moment it will stop on a triangular section to focus on, an area in which either I have failed as a parent or my daughter has failed as a go-getter. “Never instilled love of gardening,” “never forced the learning of a musical instrument,” “terrible at giving of chores” are some of mine. “Does not participate in any sport, intimidated by balls” and “watches way too much New Girl” are some of hers.
She’d quit the company because she felt that she’d grown out of it physically—she was in high school now, and it’s a company for “little kids,” in her estimation—but mostly because she didn’t want to feel so sad, such a sense of loss, every time she went to practice. It represented her childhood, which she was beginning to mourn.
I urged her to stay. “That consistency will look great on a college application! They love seeing commitment to a passion over time!”
She questioned whether that would be lying. “I’ve changed. That’s not who I am anymore.”
I couldn’t argue with that, especially when often I don’t know who she is day-to-day, and neither does she.
High school is exhausting, being a teen even more so. Shouldn’t kids be given points just for getting up in the morning and going, everyday? Is that setting the bar way too low? How about points for honesty about how they are feeling, and being able to communicate it? Or for humor, compassion, empathic awareness? Does it make a virtue of necessity that I wish there was a place on the Common App to record “Number of times I’ve soldiered through my day when I was feeling major inner turmoil”? And a bit less focus on the G.P.A.? Every kid would appreciate that, wouldn’t they?
Maybe not the kids who soldier through, AND dance, and run, and play multiple instruments. They deserve credit where it’s due.
But yeah – I see a pretty Worthwhile Human in my girl. There she is now, like I thought.
Napping on the couch, after a big day.
Marriott Bartholomew lives in Salt Lake City, Utah, and is a stay-at-home mom with almost no kids left at home; her daughters are 21 and 18, one in college and one hopefully on the way there! She’s been a graduate student in U.S. History, a Planned Parenthood clinic worker, a substitute teacher, a bookseller, a jewelry maker and a photographer. Her favorite job-and of course, the most challenging one-has been parenting, and she loves writing about it.