Kid Decoder

Nutcracker Dreams

We all tread a fine line between encouraging our kids and wanting to protect them

Photograph by Getty Images

I still remember when I told my oldest daughter that she was eligible to audition for the local production of The Nutcracker.

“The real one!” she exclaimed. “Like the one we see every year!”

She giggled with glee.

Every year after we attended the performance, a mother-daughter tradition, she would ask me when she could try out.

And each year I’d tell her that she would need to be at least 8 years old.

I suddenly felt like a new mom again—something a bit foreign to me as a mother of four.

So I certainly had that in the back of my mind when I moved her to the ballet school affiliated with the production. The jazz, tap and ballet combo at our small, local studio didn’t seem to provide her with the challenge she needed. And since my second daughter was begging to start as well, I could fit both girls in for their lessons on the same day, saving me a long drive twice a week with all of my four kids in the car.

And so she signed up, not a day too soon. Auditions were early the next day.

In the back of my mind, I knew her chances would be slim. Not because I don’t believe in my daughter and her dancing ability, but because I know how these things work. Indeed, she was one of the youngest students eligible and in the lowest level permitted to try out, and while she was probably just as good as the other girls in her age group and class, she had never actually taken a ballet class at the school. So while the other girls may have been used to the choreography and dance style of the instructors, she was not.

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And I also knew that they use the same costumes every year. So her size mattered. The height requirements were clearly marked on her audition sheet. And I knew that though she seemed tall to me, she is slight in size compared with other girls her age, and might not be big enough to fit into the costumes.

I suddenly felt like a new mom again—something a bit foreign to me as a mother of four—but when you’re presented with a parenting situation that you’ve never been in, you regress back to those moments when you felt so helpless, so unsure of yourself.

Do I tell her that it’s going to be hard and that she might not make it?

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